The latest health “Bugs” that Rogue Community Health facilities will contend with hardly involve a medical diagnosis or unpleasant symptoms.

A fleet of five brightly-colored Volkswagen Beetles hit the road last week, symbolizing an increase in access for health services and a campaign to bring awareness about the importance of a healthy community.

Rogue Community Health introduced its fleet of five Bugs at the Rogue Way to Health Luncheon on Nov. 1. The mobile health units will expand community and patient outreach in a variety of ways.

The purchase was made possible through a combination of Oregon Health Authority's "I'm Healthy" grant funding and the support of Lithia Volkswagen of Medford, which also provided the graphic wraps inviting passers-by to "Catch the Health Bug!"

Rogue Community Health CEO William North said the five new cars will be used for everything from educating on the importance of healthy behaviors and reaching patients throughout the valley who face barriers to accessing healthcare services.

The Health Bugs will also be at health fairs and community events throughout the region.

North said that while Rogue Community Health already offers mobile services and outreach, the new vehicles would provide a more noticeable presence — a bright, fun way to send a serious message.

“This was an interesting way for us to get the message out there, outside of regular healthcare appointments, that there are healthy “bugs” to catch such as probiotics, immunizations and antibiotics, and that part of us living in a healthy way is to make sure that we eat right, we really take care of ourselves from a nutritional standpoint,” North said.

To that end, each of the bugs was given a name: “Proby” for probiotics; “Penny” for penicillin; “Immy” for immunization; “Rudy” for Lactobacillus Reuteri; and “Dophi,” for Lactobacillus Acidophilus. The latter two are both forms of bacteria with probiotic benefits.

“We want to make being healthy fun," North said. "You can catch the health bug through exercise and lifestyle choices and thinking about health as a choice not that you either ignore or that just happens to you.”

North said the cars would be used for everything from community outreach and patient visits in remote areas — via a tele-health program — as well as in education events with community partners to focus on health issues, other than medical visits, such as food insecurity, poor nutrition and lack of transportation that can interfere with health care.

Rogue Community Health provides tele-health appointments, in which providers such as nurses or medical assistants visit a patient while a doctor, via a video feed, diagnoses and helps treat the patient.

“The Bugs have a lot of flexibility and they’re just really fun,” North said.

“You look at them and you smile. They’re a lot of fun but also the focus is a very serious thing, too, the focus on healthcare."

For more on Rogue Community Health, see www.roguecommunityhealth.org.

— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.