Green Cars for Kids aims to help underserved pregnant women and children get to their doctor’s appointments by way of electric vehicles, at no cost to them.
While living in Birmingham, Alabama, Miami-native Dr. Catherine Toms, a public health physician, designed programs to reduce maternal and infant mortality.
“In that line of work, I realized there’s a huge gap of poor health outcomes resulting from the fact that pregnant women and kids aren’t able to get to their regularly scheduled health appointments,” said Toms, executive director of Green Cars for Kids (GCFK).
GCFK is modeled after Kid One Transport System, an Alabama-based nonprofit that provides pregnant women and children with free transportation to their medical appointments.
Using electric vehicles
The difference between the two is that GCFK will use electric vehicles.
“Having people in lower income and communities of color see more electric cars in their neighborhoods is a really important part of this,” said Toms.
When she moved back to South Florida, Toms got involved in the health impacts of climate change. She is a senior adviser for climate and health for Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), an international nongovernmental organization that works to reduce the environmental footprint of the healthcare sector.
“It’s got benefit after benefit,” she said of GCFK’s mission. “Reducing air pollution, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and getting moms and kids to healthcare that they need to stay healthy.”
Partnering with Freebee
Green Cars for Kids has partnered with Freebee, which offers free on-demand rides throughout South Florida via electric vehicles.
John Janusz, Freebee’s director of experience and director of economic development, says they will likely use a Model X Tesla to provide transportation for GCFK.
“The goal is to connect as many children and expectant mothers to medical care as possible,” he says. “Therefore, while one person is at their appointment, someone else will get a ride to or from the medical center.”
He estimates the costs of transportation will be $116,000 for one year.
“The greater level of efficiency we can achieve, the lower the cost per ride and the more we will be able to provide this service to as many people as possible,” he says.
Freebee was founded in 2012 and serves over two dozen cities around South and Central Florida, as well as Virginia. It has partnered with municipalities and universities to provide communities with free, on-demand transportation via electric vehicles.
“This project is important because we will be providing an essential service to get people to the medical care that they need, and sometimes desperately need,” says Janusz.
Though Freebee operates on-demand, there will likely be an option to schedule rides in advance. “Especially for patients who are going to need it more frequently, who go to multiple appointments,” said Toms.
Tamlyn Jones, 36, a mother of three who lives in Hallandale, visits her youngest child, Titan, every day in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at HCA Florida University Hospital in Davie. Titan was born premature in August at 28 weeks.
“For mothers and families that are trying to see their little ones in the hospital like me that would be a great help,” she says,
She currently spends $1,100 monthly on Lyft rides to visit her baby. Her oldest daughter recently had to go to another hospital for medical care, adding to Jones’ already high transportation costs.
She recently started taking city buses to help reduce her transportation costs. But, she notes, buses take longer and there’s always the risk of inclement weather.
“It would be a big help,” Jones said.
Transportation is big issue for seeing a doctor
Dr. Daphna Yasova Barbeau, a neonatologist and director of neurodevelopment and palliative care at HCA University Hospital, highlights the challenges that families must often overcome.
“Access to care is an ongoing obstacle,” she said. “We know lack of transportation and farther distances to clinics decreases people’s ability to interface with their healthcare,” Barbeau said.
“When it comes to prenatal care, fewer prenatal visits are associated with worse outcomes, including prematurity,” she added. “In the NICU, where I work, lack of transportation means fewer opportunities for parent-infant bonding, which is crucial to development in the first few months of life.
“Green Cars for Kids would help us bring families to their babies in the NICU,” she said, “and by using green cars they’re helping reduce emissions in some of our most vulnerable neighborhoods.”
Kid One, the Alabama nonprofit that serves as the model for GCFK, has given 437,000 rides to underserved women and children to get to their medical appointments over 25 years. The group has helped nearly 50,000 families across Alabama.
“When you don’t have resources, you’re not getting the service that you need, and the maternal outcome and the long-term health and well-being of that child is compromised,” said Kid One President Matt Holdbrooks.
The United States has the highest maternal mortality rate of any developed country and African Americans have the highest infant mortality rate of any racial or ethnic group in this country. Pregnancy-related mortality ratios are three to four times higher for Black women compared with white women., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
GCFK’s pilot program will launch first in Broward and if funding allows, in Miami-Dade soon after.
GCFK aims to focus on areas with the most need, using a Health Resources and Services Administration tool that locates medically underserved areas.
The neighborhoods in Broward will likely be Lauderdale Lakes, Lauderhill, Margate and Sunrise. In Miami-Dade, Overtown, Little Havana, Allapattah, and Wynwood are on the group’s radar.
How to help
To donate to Green Cars for Kids, visit greencars4kids.org and click “Donate Now.” For information, email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or call 561-400-9835