Joey writes: A Partnership between Public Health and the Faith Community?

After surfing the web for different examples of congregational health ministry connections between our congregations and public health, I was pleasantly surprised when coming across an encouraging article found on the Tennessee Department of Health official website of the state of Tennessee (http://health.state.tn.us/dmhde/faith.shtml). The article, published from the office of faith based health initiatives, entitled “A Partnership between Public Health and the Faith Community: Why?” encourages the reader to “educate your congregation on the importance of caring for themselves physically as well as spiritually and mentally.”

Based on the article, Tennessee has moved from 48th to 47th in state health rankings according to the United Health Foundation (www.unitedhealthfoundation.org). Statistics show that Tennessee has one of the highest infant mortality rates in the country, and to no Tennessean’s surprise has a high number of people who smoke and suffer from heart disease, our biggest killer. Obesity was also listed as a serious lifestyle issue that has doubled since 1990.

Although the statistics were discouraging, the suggested connection between health and our congregations was encouraging. The article encourages us as Tennesseans to “help Tennessee become one of the healthiest states in the country” by educating our congregants on the importance of wholistic healthcare. The Tennessee Department of Health offers its website (www.Tennessee.gov/health) as a site for educational resources, as well as our local health departments the service of providing free educational materials on physical wholeness.

We are encouraged to consider these alarming health statistics of Tennesseans and to remember that each of these statistics represents a person who may have been a member of our own congregation before their untimely death. As a church family and congregation, we influence a wide variety of families within our communities. If we emphasize from the congregation the importance of improving our health, the article suggests, we can not only save lives but also help to improve the quality of life for Tennesseans.

A suggested five minute health message every week during our worship services or a short message placed strategically in church bulletins or newsletters will give information that can reach many people and can make a difference in the lifestyles of the readers.

I am so impressed that our state Department of Health is actually encouraging this on the official state website. Also on the same page are informational links on “How to Start and Grow A Health Ministry,” “Resources and Tools for Building a Health Ministry,” “About Faith Based Initiatives,” and “Health and Faith.” My only hope is that this intent of agency by the state is well publicized and acted upon by our congregations and those in charge of the health departments at the local level. Unfortunately, by ranking 47th in state health rankings, the assumption is that many are not yet getting the message.

One other website that was very impressive that was too good not to share, from was http://beliefnet.com. Beliefnet offers excellent features on religion, spiritually, faith, health, prayer, and the Bible wholistically. The sight is independent and not affiliated with any spiritual organization or movement. The health and healing link, was most impressive and demonstrated to be an excellent example of hope.

Joey

About garygunderson

Vice President, Faith Health, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC. Author, Leading Causes of Life, Deeply Woven Roots, Boundary Leaders and Religion and the Heath of the Public. Secretary, Stakeholder Health (Health Systems Learning Group).
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