Screening unit on wheels encourages health conversations

A medical emergency is unexpected, especially when enjoying the festivities of a street fair, but the unexpected happened while I was on an MSR assignment with Craig Hotvedt, the executive director of Health Fair 11. Fortunately, I was in just the right place for dealing with it.

(Jonika Stowes/MSR News)

Owned and operated by Southside Community Health Services Inc., the “Q”mmunity mobile RV participates in various festivities around the Twin Cities, including the Minnesota State Fair, to raise awareness about health. Health Fair 11 is “dedicated to providing free or low-cost screenings and health education to members of the community,” said Hotvedt.

In its 20th year as a nonprofit organization, Health Fair 11 depends on grants from companies such as Medtronic, whose funds are going towards a number of projects including a videographer creating a story to share in boardrooms and other meetings. Health Fair 11’s “Q”mmunity mobile RV community member screenings focus on:

  • blood pressure
  • cholesterol levels
  • blood glucose levels
  • body mass index (BMI)

“Most people that we see are fine, but maybe haven’t engaged in an intentional health conversation,” said Hotvedt, “so we try and get them thinking about their health and some of the choices they’re making.”

On occasion, Hotvedt’s team of nurses and medical students come across an individual who has more serious issues, and Health Fair 11 then works with them to try and find a program or clinic in the area where they live so they can continue follow-up care. High glucose readings or really bad blood pressure issues have sometimes found the team calling for emergency medical assistance while in the field.

For example, “Earlier this summer we sent a guy to the emergency room because his blood pressure was off the charts. He was feeling fine but his readings said you’re not fine, and that’s when the [Health Fair 11] nurses need to have a really informative conversation with them.” This emergency ended well with the man’s family taking to heart what the nurses in the field told him and getting him to a hospital emergency room.

All information collected at “Q”mmunity mobile RV is anonymous. “We do ask them to fill out a survey so that we get aggregate data — where do they go when they need medical care, do they have a regular clinic, basic demographic information of what zip code do they live in so that we can take that information and prove the impact we’re having in the community with our screenings,” said Hotvedt. This data is essential to Health Fair 11 when seeking grants and other funding to help more people in the community.

Funding for Health Fair 11 is currently provided by UCare, Medtronic Foundation and KARE 11 TV. The television station “serves as Health Fair 11’s megaphone and media partner, helping to draw attention to projects such as “Q”mmunity mobile RV,” said Hotvedt.

According to Health Fair 11’s website, other projects and initiatives include blood drives, flu shot clinics, self-breast checks on the 11th of every month, and monthly public service announcement (PSA) campaigns.

The “Q”mmunity mobile RV’s last stop of the year will be at the Sister Spokesman Business and Wellness Fair on November 4. Health Fair 11 adds events to its calendar monthly, and the Medtronic Foundation grant helps the “Q”mmunity mobile RV unit participate in more neighborhood functions. Within the past five years it has helped screen 20,000 community members.

Shortly before our interview I was stung by a bee. Since I have an allergy to bee stings, the site began to swell up as we talked. “Oh wow, that is swelling fast,” Hotvedt noted. “We have nurses if you need. Should I go get a nurse really quick?”

As I was being treated by one of the “Q”mmunity mobile nurses, this MSR contributing writer learned another valuable lesson, that some emergency medications are only good for one year before their potency breaks down and the medication becomes no more useful than not carrying it at all — yet another benefit of a visit to the “Q”mmunity mobile RV.


For more information, visit Health Fair 11’s website at This story is made possible by a grant from the Medtronic Foundation.

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