Military Stop Brings Health Care To Rural Alabama
HAYNEVILLE, Ala. (AP) An Air Force dentist pulls teeth in the oil-stained garage where the town's fire truck normally parks. A reservist in camouflage dispenses free medicine in the police department lobby.
The doctoring Wednesday was part of a military program to provide free health care in poor areas of the South and whose latest mission came to one of Alabama's most impoverished regions, where the teams have treated more than 12,000 people in less than two weeks. The work helps fill a gap in an area with few doctors and a multitude of medical problems, many of them linked to the obesity that is rampant in the state.
All day, people with high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, rotting teeth and failing eyes wait to see doctors, nurses and other uniformed health professionals from the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Navy Reserve at Hayneville City Hall, which has been temporarily converted into a health clinic for the program. Similar clinics set up in Demopolis and Selma have treated thousands more since opening May 1; the temporary program ends Thursday.Leaving with an update on her blood pressure problems and a bag full of pills, Mamie Brenson, 45, of Selma was thankful for a rare chance to see a doctor. "''I really love this," she said. "I'm happy for it, y'all." Now in its third year in Alabama, the Pentagon's Innovative Readiness Training program is administered in parts of the South by the Delta Regional Authority, a federal-state partnership that promotes economic development in parts of eight Southern states. The authority has brought similar health projects to Arkansas and Mississippi. Aside from the South, troops have provided health care and other services including dog inoculations and sewer repairs from Hawaii to Alaska. In return for the care, the troops get the occasional donated meal or a hug from patients, plus valuable training. Their work is part of a program that sends guard members and reservists into some of America's poorest communities, where they learn to set up health clinics and other projects and deal with large numbers of people, just as they might do after a natural disaster or in a foreign county.
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