By Teresa Cutts

Teresa Cutts is a clinical health psychologist and a research assistant professor with public health sciences at Wake Forest School of Medicine. Her skills and research, evaluation and writing are a vital role in the division of FaithHealth ministries.

Connected journey of health. Health systems often see people as “If you touch oursystem, you’re a patient. Otherwise, you’re invisible to us.” We’re trying to expand that way of thinking to say that a person has a journey of health. Once every seven years for most people, they touch the hospital. They shouldn’t just be visible to us or important to us when they become a patient. Hospitals are beginning to get into the world of looking at social determinants but they’re still rudimentary when they think about how we live within a broader context and that we’re all connected to one another. 

On research and evaluation. I think about measurement the way I think of evaluation. Our work, of course, is based on trying to figure out ways to show proof of concept in a very complex system. Because the work we do extends outside the walls and is in community, which is highly complex and messy, it doesn’t lend itself to the traditional medical paradigm of “A causes B.” In our work we have to think very holistically and broadly in what we measure.

A lot of times, the work I do is more along the lines of what is called applied health services research, where you take data that’s already out there—whether it’s financial data or what we know about diagnosis or where people live and why they come into the ED—and try to show proof of concept for small-scale studies that we do or cohorts we follow like the “supporters of health,” our community health workers.

On mapping workshops. Mapping workshops are an important starting place for people beginning to do the work of FaithHealth in a new area. The model we were trained on came out of an African program and evolved to become Community Health Assets Mapping Partnership, or CHAMP. We’ve done around 25 different mappings across North Carolina and in other states. We’ve held mapping workshops with people in the Hispanic community and we’ve held them on behavioral health.  One on cycles of incarceration focused on the people who hit our jail system. Many of them have substance abuse problems. Often people go in and out of halfway houses when they’re coming out of jail or back into jail or back into treatment. We did this workshop in conjunction with the health department.

You have one workshop with health providers. We broadly define health and we broadly define providers. A health provider can be a clergy or can be somebody who runs a soup kitchen or it can be a business owner. Interestingly, we found that people who run funeral homes are great health providers. They actually provide grief counseling groups and they often help provide people that don’t have means a way to bury their loved ones.

So these health providers come one day, and then the health seeker workshop is for people who seek those services. You get to the intangible assets. It’s not just the clinic on the corner. The clinic may be on the corner and I may have a card to go there, but maybe they don’t do a quick turnaround on my blood work.  The intangibles of how that care is delivered are probably the most important data that comes out of a mapping.

Then after about six weeks, you come back with a detailed report from both the providers and seekers and invite more people into the process, so it’s a springboard for future collaboration and/or engagement.

Listen to the podcast with Teresa Cutts and Emily Viverette.