Mapping mobile health clinics in Canada: lessons and solutions to deliver equitable primary care


Introduction: The delivery of healthcare in Canada has changed with the advent of new technologies ranging from telehealth to mobile health clinics. To date, there is no comprehensive database of primary care mobile health clinics providing services to vulnerable populations in Canada. This study aims to characterize such clinics.

Methods: This environmental scan screened scientific databases and the grey literature using a combination of terms designating mobile health clinics and Canadian locations. Relevant Canadian primary care mobile clinic initiatives were subsequently included. Primary care mobile clinics are movable health care units providing primary healthcare services delivered by general medical practitioners (family physicians and pediatricians).

Results: 29 clinics were identified. The first Canadian mobile clinic was created in 1996. 26 clinics are still active. Most clinics were located in Ontario (n=11), followed by British Columbia (n=8), Alberta (n=5), Quebec (n=2) and the Maritimes (n=2). While all clinics served vulnerable populations, some specifically targeted people experiencing homelessness, immigrants, children, LGBTQ+ individuals and Indigenous peoples. Physicians often worked with nurses, outreach workers and social workers on board of the clinics. These professionals provided primary care services, as well as healthcare navigation, sexual education, mental health care, harm reduction supplies, vaccination and emergency care. All mobile clinics partnered with their local government, charities or businesses to fund their initiative.

Conclusion: Mobile health clinics are a growing model of primary care in Canada. They reduce the health equity gap by providing accessible healthcare to vulnerable populations in Canada.

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