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Building Healthy Communities through Medical-Religious Partnerships

Richard G. Bennett, M.D., and W. Daniel Hale, Ph.D.

Publication Year: 2009

Because health care works best when patients assume greater responsibility for their own health, community outreach and patient education have taken on increased importance. Building Healthy Communities through Medical-Religious Partnerships describes an innovative approach to the development of community-based health education and patient advocacy programs targeted at the prevention and management of disease. Partnerships between health systems and religious congregations, the authors show, can be remarkably successful at bringing appropriate care to people who are often difficult to serve. The book offers valuable guidance for religious and medical leaders interested in developing programs in their congregations and communities. It includes practical and accessible information for establishing health education programs, identifies additional resources that can be obtained from local and national organizations, and discusses a range of medical topics. It also outlines how to train volunteers to assist others in navigating our complex health system. This revised and expanded edition of Building Healthy Communities through Medical-Religious Partnerships includes several new chapters along with descriptions of five medical-religious partnership models. Special attention is given to the challenges and opportunities presented by our aging and increasingly diverse population.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

With health care reform in the air, this is the perfect time for this book, which describes creative models of how to make health care available through medical-religious partnerships. It explains how these partnerships can work by an interdisciplinary approach modeled in the book itself. Its organization by major illnesses, with information on each disease, high-...

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pp. xi-xiii

We prepared the original edition of Building Healthy Communities through Medical-Religious Partnerships because experience convinced us that partnerships between health care systems and religious congregations had tremendous potential to meet many of the difficult challenges our country faces as the population continues to age and the number of people...


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pp. xv-xvii

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pp. 1-5

Dramatic changes in American society are creating serious challenges for our health care systems, which evolved to treat acute illnesses but increasingly must adapt to care for chronic conditions. The most significant driver of this change is the aging of the population, a demographic trend that is accelerating. Current estimates are that more than 133 million ...


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1. Healing Body, Mind, and Soul—A Model for Health Ministry

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pp. 9-22

Rev. Jeffrey Sumner had approached the summer of 1999 full of optimism and enthusiasm as he worked with members of the congregation to prepare for Vacation Bible School and various other summer programs. He had no reason to think that he might have a serious medical condition. As far as he could tell, he was in excellent health, and everything seemed...

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2. Addressing Challenges through Medical-Religious Partnerships

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pp. 23-32

The Body, Mind, and Soul health ministry of Westminster by-the-Sea Presbyterian Church (chapter 1) is an example of how a religious congregation can effectively address serious health challenges by working in partnership with health care organizations, but it is only one of many such programs throughout the country. We have worked with congregations of...

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3. Congregational Health Education Programs

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pp. 33-42

One of the most valuable and meaningful programs that can be offered to a congregation and community is a proactive health education program. Information is at the heart of both health promotion and illness management. People of all ages, even children, need to know more about health, illnesses, and medical care. Most of the life-limiting and life-threatening...


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4. Coronary Heart Disease

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pp. 45-54

Coronary heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Each year approximately 1.5 million Americans suffer a heart attack and nearly half a million die as a result of the attack. Heart attacks (myocardial infarctions) occur when arterial (blood vessel) blockages stop blood and oxygen from reaching the heart muscle—as when a clogged fuel line...

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5. Hypertension

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pp. 55-60

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is generally defined as a systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher. In more recent years, “prehypertension” has been recognized as a diagnosis among adults with systolic blood pressures in the 120–139 range, and diastolic blood pressures in the 80–89 range. Prehypertension often...

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6. Cancer

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pp. 61-67

There are more than one hundred types of cancer, all characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells. The most common types that can lead to death are prostate, breast, lung, and colon cancer, each of which typically begins as a discrete localized tumor (or mass) in the affected organ. Skin cancers are also common, particularly among older...

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7. Diabetes Mellitus

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pp. 68-75

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that approximately 24 million Americans (nearly 8% of the U.S. population) have diabetes mellitus, a condition defined by abnormally high levels of glucose (a natural sugar) in the blood. However, almost a quarter of these people do not know they have this serious medical condition. Among peo-...

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8. Depression

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pp. 76-86

Depression, a serious condition that affects millions of Americans every year, is different from the periods of sadness or feelings of grief that occur as an expected part of life for most people. Although it is normal to be sad or “down” occasionally and to experience grief when a significant loss occurs, clinical depression has more severe symptoms, often sustained...

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9. Dementia

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pp. 87-94

Dementia is a clinical syndrome or condition in which there is a progressive deterioration of mental faculties, usually over many years. Problems with memory are usually the first sign of dementia. Other symptoms may include difficulties with language, impaired judgment, problems in performing simple tasks such as dressing, and changes in personality and...

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10. Influenza and Pneumonia

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pp. 95-99

Influenza, usually called the flu, is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. Symptoms generally include fever, chills, dry cough, and muscle aches. For most of the 35 to 50 million Americans it strikes each year, influenza is not a serious illness. Although it is certainly unpleasant, most people are ill for only a few days and return to their regular level of activity...

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11. Advance Directives

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pp. 100-106

The basis for preparing an advance directive regarding health care is the moral and legal right of every adult to accept or refuse recommended medical treatments. Colloquially, this is a direct expression of each person’s fundamental right to say, “Keep your hands off me.” Each person can decide what medical care to accept and what to reject. Physicians, hospi-...

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12. Communicating with Health Care Providers

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pp. 107-125

Many patients have had the experience of coming out of a meeting with their physician feeling more confused than when they went in. It is not unusual for patients to report that they do not completely understand their illness or what they should do to manage their condition more effectively, even though they have had several meetings with their doctor. Many...

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13. Modifying Common Risk Factors

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pp. 126-143

There are a number of risk factors for most major chronic diseases, some of which are beyond our control (e.g., age, gender, family history). But there are other risk factors, generally referred to as lifestyle factors, over which we can exert considerable influence. In this chapter we discuss four of these factors—stress, inadequate physical activity, excess weight,...

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14. Managing Medications

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pp. 144-149

Even adults who have no outward signs of ill health can take many prescribed and over-the-counter medications to treat common conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, acid reflux, and arthritis. As individuals age and develop chronic diseases, the list of medications frequently grows long. In a 2007 “Personal Health” column in the New York...

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15. Accidents and Falls

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pp. 150-154

Accidents and falls frequently are overlooked as major health problems associated with aging. However, both the incidence and the severity of falls increase with age, and accidents are among the ten leading causes of death among older adults. Almost one-third of adults aged 65 or older who live at home experience falls each year. Approximately one in forty of these...


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16. Community Resources

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pp. 157-168

Many chronic conditions and serious injuries can create significant challenges for people who want to maintain their independence. If they do not have family or friends who can step in to assist them physically or handle some of the everyday tasks and responsibilities required to live independently in the community, they may find it necessary to move to...

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17. Innovative Medical-Religious Partnerships

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pp. 169-191

The health needs and concerns that can be addressed by medical-religious partnerships vary from community to community. This chapter presents five different programs. Our own report on a program serving Daytona Beach and surrounding communities is followed by a report on a program in Memphis (prepared by Gary Gunderson),...

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18. National Organizations and Resources

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pp. 192-201

There are numerous organizations that have excellent materials and other resources that can be used in planning congregational and community health programs. In this chapter we offer information about some of The Health Ministries Association (HMA) is a nonprofit membership organization open to individuals, faith communities, institutions, and or -...


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pp. 203-215


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pp. 217-218

Suggested Readings

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pp. 219-220


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pp. 221-228

E-ISBN-13: 9780801895777
E-ISBN-10: 0801895774
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801892936
Print-ISBN-10: 0801892937

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: second edition

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Community health services for older people -- Religious aspects.
  • Older people -- Medical care -- Religious aspects.
  • Preventive health services for older people -- Religious aspects.
  • Managed care plans (Medical care) -- Religious aspects.
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