By Robbie Owens

DALLAS COUNTY (CBSDFW.COM) – Overcoming barriers to better health is the goal of a new Parkland Clinic that will begin construction this fall in an unlikely place. A mall.

“Working with community partners, we can start to impact those lives where they live,” says James Perez, Parkland’s Administrator of Operations Population Health.

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The Parkland Clinic is one of the many highly anticipated additions to the new ‘reimagined’ RedBird mall, as the redevelopment is being branded.

The once-popular shopping center is nestled between Highway 67 and Interstate 20 in Southern Dallas County.

Right now, developers are turning abandoned retail spaces into a catalyst for community change, calling it a live, work and play destination that clearly puts an emphasis on living well.

UT Southwestern Medical Center has also announced plans to open a regional medical facility in the space once occupied by Sears.

“Healthcare is number one for this area… at least, that’s the way I see it,” says Jerry Hannon, who added that he’s excited to see new buildings and opportunities coming to the city’s southern sector.

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“I think that’s wonderful for us that don’t like to drive the expressways,” says Essie Kemp, stopping into a barber shop at the mall for a trim. “Traffic is so terrible on 35 that it’s a great help.”

It was just last week that Parkland Health Systems and Dallas County Health and Human Services identified the “unhealthiest” zip codes in the city and it came as no surprise that poverty and poor health are often linked.

The research also cited transportation and even childcare as barriers to accessing health services.

“The report last week really just confirmed what we already knew,” says Perez, who says the health system is working on a number of innovative projects to bring healthcare to where the patients already are. “If we’re only a 10 minute drive, we’re hoping that, one, they will develop a relationship with a primary care physician, have a medical home, so we can then begin to manage not only the acute components of their life, but the chronic issues? How do we talk about prevention? How do we have diabetes classes? and how to manage their diabetes.”

Other services that patients right now have to travel to the main campus to access will also be offered at the RedBird clinic, such as rehabilitation treatment. The clinic will also have a pharmacy, mammograms and mental health services.

“Having those services where patients need them, hopefully it will be the tipping point to turning the ship around with regards to their health care,” says Perez.

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The clinic is scheduled to open in July of 2021.