“What would our community look like if we became the healthiest community in North Carolina?… How can we think outside the box?” asked Dr. Sherry Dickstein, a retired OB-GYN and community health advocate.
“We’re tied second with New Orleans for food [in]security…what we’re finding out is the poison and the medicine all diverts back to the food,” shared Matthew King, an NC A&T student and leader of the “Innovative Food Project” sponsored by Prince of Peace Lutheran Church of Greensboro.
“We are very concerned about fraud among older adults – particularly medical fraud,” warned AARP NC Associate Director Audrey Galloway.
These are just a few of the voices and issues that rose to the fore at the 2013 Guilford County Healthcare Faith Summit, which was made possible by a partnership between UNCG School of Health and Human Sciences faculty and Mount Zion Baptist Church.
Faith summits bring secular and faith organizations together to address topics of import to the community as a whole. This year, education, faith, nonprofit, business, and health groups came together to explore issues of healthcare. The theme of the day? “We are all in this together.”
“The health of an individual, and the subsequent community, is impacted by many non-biological variables—environmental, social, mental and spiritual… by working together we can better address the broad spectrum of human need,” wrote Mount Zion Baptist Church’s Pastor Bryan J. Pierce in regards to the summit.
The public event was the brainchild of UNCG faculty Bob Wineburg and Vincent Francisco and Mount Zion’s Chief Administrative Officer, Reverend Odell Cleveland. (Cleveland is also an adjunct professor of community engagement at UNCG.) Jefferson Pilot Excellence Professor Wineburg explained, “The summit is an effort to bring people from the medical, faith, and educational systems closer together in a day of learning about how all can support better health for the entire community.” The event drew 762 attendees.
Leaders from education, faith, and health sectors discussed issues related to aging, youth, women, immigrants, refugees, access to care, and more in 23 workshops. Speakers described populations in need and shared methods and stories of success in addressing those needs.
Special Assistant to the President of the United States and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Melissa Rogers served as keynote speaker at the day-long event. “No matter how great government benefits and service are, they mean nothing if they don’t reach the people who need them. And that’s where faith and community groups often play an invaluable role,” said Rogers. “Whether it’s a flu shot, veterans’ benefits, or job training, government does well when it seeks community partners.”
The Nov. 14 event closed with three featured sessions. The first looked at the state of the community’s health, with an emphasis on data and fact-driven solutions. The session was facilitated by Francisco, an associate professor in public health education, and included Guilford County Department of Public Health’s Community Health Educator Laura Mrosla and Epidemiologist Dr. Mark Smith as well as Professor Wineburg.
The second session looked at model congregational programs. Representatives from faith-based programs that have seen positive healthcare outcomes shared their experiences and practical lessons. The session was facilitated by Minister Sandlin of Vandalia Presbyterian Church and included Pastor Tunde Adenola of The Redeemed Christian Church of God – Living Waters, whose church operated a free health clinic; Executive Director Don Milholin of the Out of the Garden Project; and Founder and Executive Director Keva Napper of Beautiful Butterflies.
The final session focused on the Affordable Care Act and making sense of the changing healthcare environment. Managing Partner Rob Luisana for Pilot Benefits, Inc., facilitated a panel of experts including Associate State Director for Community Outreach Audrey Galloway of AARP North Carolina, Health RN and MPH Robin Lane of the League of Women Voters, North Carolina Director Sorien Schmidt of Enroll America, and Executive Medical Director Dr. Thomas Wall of Triad Health Care Network.
“The summit is the most important conversation about the future of the community’s health this year,” asserted Dr. Francisco. “Everyone in the community has a part to play in our health, and this summit will determine the next steps for us all.”
“Collaboration with our community partners through this summit, and more importantly, the activities that will come after, is exactly the kind of role UNCG should play,” said summit attendee Dr. Terri Shelton. The Vice Chancellor for Research and Economic Development added, “Our strength is in supporting healthy lives and vibrant communities through our research, teaching, and workforce development. We are thrilled that UNCG can participate as a key partner in increasing access to quality healthcare for all individuals in our community.”
Article by Sangeetha Shivaji