Kaiser Health News writers Mary Agnes Carey and Jenny Gold have compiled an excellent, user-friendly Consumer’s Guide to the Health Law. They answer common questions such as: Will I have to buy health insurance? What if I can’t afford health insurance? How does the legislation affect seniors?
The Memphis Model Workshop: Adapting the Congregational Health Network
Niels French is Director of Operations and International Ministries at Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare in Memphis, Tennessee. He also manages a unique workshop. He was interviewed by Tom Peterson.
Why Memphis? How did the workshops get started?
It started with a unique alignment of factors and the benefit of an initial model here. In one of our hospitals, a church and hospital connection was starting on a small scale, exploring with pastors how to bring health education to churches. That was the core. But we had three components going on: first, a faith-based hospital that wanted to live out its faith in the community, looking for new meaning. And the Faith and Health division wanted to be more engaged with our faith identity.
Second, we are in a faith-saturated city; Memphis, along with a few other cities, is called the buckle of the Bible belt. And third, it’s a city of tremendous need and challenges: high levels of poverty, poor health and people not getting the care they need.
Stepping back from that, all we could say was, “Let’s look at our assets.” Well, if you walk in any neighborhood, you’ll see a congregation on almost every corner. It’s often a small church, where people gather, where’s there’s trust. You could look at it also as a health clinic where people could be educated around health needs. So it was connecting the dots.
Who comes to the workshops?
The Congregational Health Network, or CHN, model intrigues people. These same congregational assets are found in almost every city. Most people come from hospitals that want to do more and want to explore how to have a meaningful partnership. It’s really a diverse bunch: chaplains, or someone connected with the hospital’s faith identity; people who deal with community relations; development officers, who look at the funds this model allows; and those interested in reaching the community with education classes.
And what do they come away with?
In a day-and-a-half, participants learn firsthand about this unique model of partnership between a community and a hospital. They learn of the data collection, the electronic medical records, the training classes (and the full menu of classes we offer), the research, the successes and downfalls. They get to interact with the different players, such as the program’s director, the director of research, an involved pastor.
The liveliest session is the second day dialog with a navigator and liaison, actual members of congregations. They talk about their roles and responsibilities, challenges and successes. We also take participants to see a few community partners so they’ll get a sense of ways these organizations engage with the community. By time they leave they’ve been exposed to the whole gamut of players and issues.
The workshop is open with a lot of frank discussion, and it’s very practical. We share navigator job duties with the many roles they play, pay range, flexible hours. We talk about how we adjusted the program to deal with HIPAA privacy requirements. We openly share all of our job descriptions and other forms, so attendees leave with a jump drive full of how we operate. Of course, different attendees are interested in different aspects.
We call it an adaptation, not a replication seminar. That’s essential: if you try to do a plug and play of CHN somewhere else, it probably won’t succeed. You need to adapt it to your specific community and environment. You hear the word trust over and over. It takes time to build relationships and the processes.
How often do you hold them?
We’ve held a dozen workshops over the last three years. We try to have three or four a year. We just hosted one in April and we’ll host two more in September and December.
Are there any side benefits?
The learning is two-way, so while there’s an agenda, questions and discussion are encouraged. Memphis is not the only effort in the country. The last workshop had 20 people from 10 to 12 institutions, so you leave with having met and gotten the contact information of others on the journey. We’ve learned from a lot from other institutions already engaging in some type of congregational work—from Stephen Ministries to parish nurse partnerships and health/church initiatives dealing with diet, medication, and so on. We encourage participants to bring their information to share with each other. Sometimes, you learn what likely won’t work so you can avoid that pitfall.
A surprising benefit for MLH has been the relation with our foundation and the ability to plug the CHN work into funding grants for programs. The community/hospital relationship becomes a great bridge for other initiatives. We’ve ended up with programs in areas such as breast cancer awareness in disadvantaged communities, congregational work in increasing AIDS awareness and decreasing stigma, and in working with sickle-cell disease.
For more information, Contact Niels French: email@example.com or call 901-516-0835.
By Joe Ranager
“He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Amos 5:24
“O ye who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even as against yourselves, or your parents, or your kin, and whether it be (against) rich or poor: for Allah can best protect both. Follow not the lusts (of your hearts), lest ye swerve, and if ye distort (justice) or decline to do justice, verily Allah is well acquainted with all that ye do.” Qu’ran 4:135
“He is a perfect yogi who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings, in both their happiness and their distress.” Bhagavad Gita 6:32
The word justice gets a lot of airplay. Particularly in Memphis, we think and speak about justice. Justice is a faith issue, it’s a health issue, a human issue. Because of the events of the past in this city, justice and injustice have a heightened awareness in the minds of many. Yet it’s not just a Memphis thing, justice is more far reaching than just this local community.
I grew up mostly in Jackson, Mississippi, the home of current NAACP president Ben Jealous. It’s the home of Medgar Evers, murdered in his driveway. I attended public schools where, in terms of ethnicity, I was in the minority. Private schools and new church denominations were formed for racial reasons. Mississippi is the home of Freedom Summer. James Meredith broke the color barrier at the University of Mississippi.
Although I was young at the height of the civil rights movement, I remember stories of clergy, black and white, fleeing the state for fear of being harmed based on believing in the worth of all people. I reflect on these people and stories and have been shaped by them. Justice is at the heart of civil rights and ought to be at the heart of humanity.
I think of Micah 6:8. So what does God require of us? What does it mean to “do justice?” Whose justice? And who determines what justice is? Whose justice overrides whose? We are called back to Martin Luther King’s words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
In Buddhism, the word justice is the righteous principle on which the treatment between humans, or between an individual and his or her environment, is kept in balance. For the Buddhist, justice is when peace, tranquility and equality are maintained.
Anantanand Rambachan, a professor of religion at Saint Olaf College says:
Interreligious justification and solidarity about love and the intrinsic worth of human beings must become, for all of us, a truth and standard by which we measure ourselves, our relationships with each other and our communities. It must awaken us and open our eyes to the explicit and implicit ways in which we violate and disregard the worth of others by being unjust and by denying them the privileges and rights that we enjoy. It must inspire efforts by individual traditions, and wherever possible, cooperative action, to overcome unjust and oppressive structures of all kinds and to heal and transform communities through compassionate relationships that express equal justice and dignity. I hope for interreligious relationships that value justice and that actively pursue its attainment in communities.
Justice is about healing and transforming communities with relationships of dignity and love. It’s about helping to make our community a healthier place. The purpose of social justice is to ensure that the distribution of the benefits and burdens is fair to all members of society. Justice ensures that rights and liberties—including healthcare, powers and opportunities, and income and wealth—are distributed to all in a fair manner. Justice for health means we will apply the same kind of care to all people who come to us for care, regardless of their status in life. It also requires us to leave our comfort zone and go out into the community to help encourage it to become healthier.
Justice is the steady and lasting willingness to give to others, for the sake of all of us. Let us all seek to be instruments of love and justice.
Joe Ranager is Senior Chaplain with Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare and a United Methodist Pastor.
Photo used with permission: ESCapade, Creative Commons