To Reach The Underserved, Hospitals Look To Local Churches | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Filed Under:

To Reach The Underserved, Hospitals Look To Local Churches

Language barriers and the fear of running into trouble because they lack proper documentation are among the many reasons that some immigrants avoid the health care system.

Now hospitals seeking to connect with these hard-to-reach populations are turning to a trusted institution: the church.

In Virginia, for example, the Hispanic population is one of the fastest growing, yet a third of Hispanic women don't receive any prenatal health care during their first trimester of pregnancy, says Dr. Maria Schaart, program manager for the Congregational Health Partnership at Inova Health System. For white American women, the figure is just 12 percent.

To help address the disparity, Inova is training 30 volunteers at five local churches to reach out to women in their congregations and refer them to health services early in their pregnancy, answering questions about documentation requirements and where to go if they don't have insurance, among other things. The volunteers are often on hand during church services.

By the end of the three-year grant supporting this effort, which was provided by CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield, Inova hopes to have helped up to 250 Hispanic women learn healthier pregnancy behaviors, including understanding the importance of folic acid supplements to prevent birth defects and the effects of tobacco and alcohol during pregnancy.

For over a decade, Inova has worked with hundreds of Virginia churches to promote health and wellness. Churches typically identify a health ministry coordinator to work with Inova to assess what the congregation needs and implement a plan to achieve it, whether it's a health fair where church members can get free blood pressure and cholesterol screenings or support groups for chronic conditions, says Schaart.

No one knows how many health systems have partnerships with churches. But the Department of Health and Human Services thinks the approach has promise. Last month, the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, an HHS agency, invited 18 health systems, including Inova, to a one-day event to share information. "The basic principles are ones that any hospital can undertake," says Mara Vanderslice Kelly, acting director of the center.

Copyright 2011 Kaiser Health News. To see more, visit http://www.kaiserhealthnews.org/.

NPR

Clerical Error Puts Church On New York's 'George Carlin Way'

The street named after the late comedian, who was known for his blistering attacks on religion, ended up being a block longer than city officials intended.
NPR

This Fine Wine Made At An Italian Penal Colony Is No 2-Buck Chuck

Off the coast of Tuscany, prisoners serving the end of their sentences are learning to make wine from a 30th-generation winemaker. It's a unique approach to rehabilitation that seems to be working.
NPR

Obama's Request For Immigration Funds Meets Pushback On The Hill

President Obama has asked Congress for $3.7 billion to address the influx of immigrant children at the U.S.-Mexico border. The Senate Appropriations Committee is holding a hearing about the request.
NPR

A New Device Lets You Track Your Preschooler ... And Listen In

LG's KizON wristband lets you keep tabs on your child. But some experts say such devices send the wrong message about the world we live in. And the gadgets raise questions about kids' privacy rights.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.