Community Health Resource Summit for Faith Leaders

By Anita Holmes

The Northeastern FaithHealthNC Partnership is an outgrowth of discussions and collaborations between the faith, health, education and human service entities in the Roanoke-Chowan area. Initial activity included orientation and training of volunteers, discussions with and guidance from faith-based entities, meetings with several health and human resource agencies, and the establishment of three part-time FaithHealth Connector positions. The Connectors are trusted members of the community embedded in key social or faith networks that support community members in their health journey. In addition, they facilitate linkages between faith and health entities, recruit and support congregant and community members to assist with FaithHealth missions and represent FaithHealth in other community activities as appropriate.

As these activities were underway, a partnership group, Northeastern FaithHealth NC Partnership, emerged to serve as a strategic planning and action group committed to improved health for area residents.  The partnership was comprised of representatives of the following organizations:

  • Albemarle Regional Health Services
  • Chowan University (Church & Community Relations)-Lou Ann Gilliam
  • FaithHealthNC
  • HealThy Neighbors
  • Roanoke Chowan Community Health Center
  • Vidant Roanoke Chowan Hospital
  • Trillium Health Resources

Partnership goals include facilitating faith and health organizations working together on a shared mission of health and healing and better assuring that faith leaders, congregants, and the communities are aware of health resources and how to access them.

Prior to the establishment of the partnership, there had been several meetings with pastoral leaders in the area. One of the themes heard during meetings was the need to connect people to resources. On the resources side, was the desire of agencies and organizations to reach persons they seek to serve.

Based on these and other assessments, the Partnership agreed to convene a Community Health Resource Summit for Faith Leaders on May 21, 2019 at Chowan University. In addition to their participation, pastors from Bertie, Gates, Hertford, and Northampton Counties were requested to send at least two congregational members that could make Summit information available to other congregants and community members. Given the large geographical area, Hertford served as a primary focal point for this Summit.

From the beginning, it was understood that the development of any initiative needs to be embraced and owned locally.  While there have been a variety of FaithHealth services provided by the Connectors, two of the most significant outcomes have been the (1) partnership developed between FaithHealth and some of the key area healthcare providers and (2) the resulting Summit.

Planners and participants remain excited about the outcome of the Summit and the relationships that have been developed. There were approximately 75 Summit participants (pastors and congregant representatives) from the Roanoke Chowan area, not including speakers and about 20 health and human service exhibitors.  A keynote presentation and five breakout sessions on select topics (e.g., Opioid Crisis, Medicaid Transformation, health promotion and chronic disease) were provided.

The evaluation results indicated that an overwhelming majority of the participants considered the Summit an excellent event. In response to the objective of increasing awareness of area resources, two comments that reflect participant reactions are:

  • “There are so many resources in Hertford County that the faith community needs to be made aware of.  Thank you so much for this community health resource summit!”
  • “Thanks for planning this event.  As a new Pastor in the area, this information was most helpful!”

Partnership members continue to hear similar comments. In addition, follow-up requests are being made by various congregations for additional presentations.

Summit participants and planners (Northeastern Partnership) want the Summit to become an annual event. One participant commented, “Excellent opportunity for blending faith and health”.  This event is most likely to attract even greater participation as the planners continue to determine the most effective means for event promotion and as those in attendance champion future events.

Just as significant as the Summit is the decision by members of the Partnership to continue as an ongoing entity, with the Co-Chairs being Berna Stephens (a FaithHealth Connector) and Crystal Dempsey (Vidant Health, HealThy Neighbor). In addition, the Hertford Health Maintenance Alliance recently voted the Partnership to become one of the workgroups of this Collaborative Network.  Models such as the above will help inform potential FaithHealth collaboration in other regions and provide an infrastructure that will facilitate trust building opportunities and linkages to enable health and wellness!