As a representative of faith-based health in North Carolina, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the 26th Annual Emerging Issues Forum in downtown Raleigh on February 7th and 8th, which focused specifically on new and promising innovations in health care. Governor Beverly Perdue; Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN; and Bradley Wilson, President and CEO of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC), were just a few of the many top professionals in medicine, public health, and even engineering who attended this event to identify workable solutions to poor health and health care delivery in our state.
Throughout the two-day forum, there was one group in particular that seemed to get a lot of attention – churches. This was particularly true during the closing session with Wilson and Dr. William Roper, Chief Executive Officer of the UNC Health Care System. Former Governor Jim Hunt facilitated the discussion, highlighting the importance of involving community organizations in our state’s mission to improve the health of all North Carolinians, and how churches, in particular, can play a critical role in this process. Roper and Wilson agreed, Roper stating that places of worship are the organizing fabric of communities, and Wilson adding that “where two or more are gathered”, good things tend to happen. Wilson emphasized the importance of social support that congregants offer to one another in promoting and nurturing healthy behaviors.
It was truly gratifying to hear three of our most recognized and respected leaders in health care and politics talk about the value of North Carolina’s faith community – something that we, at the North Carolina Council of Churches (NCCC), have always known. In April of 2009, we developed a faith-based health initiative called Partners in Health and Wholeness (PHW), with generous funding from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation and the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. PHW is designed to promote health as a practice of our faith and to provide congregations with the resources and tools to lead healthier lifestyles – i.e., to be more physically active; to eat healthy, well-balanced meals; and to reduce the impact of smoking on themselves and their neighbors.
Through PHW, congregations are demonstrating that our bodies are God’s temple and that, as people of faith, we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to our Maker. To illustrate, congregations from different denominations and geographic areas in North Carolina are taking part in the PHW Certification Program and receiving recognition from the NCCC and their respective judicatories for their efforts; denominational leaders are showing their support by signing the PHW Endorsement Resolution; pastors are pledging to preach one or more times a year on health as a faith issue; and the NCCC’s Governing Board has adopted policy statements on secondhand smoke, physical activity and nutrition.
May we continue to put our faith to action and set a positive example for others in the community to follow. As our scriptures teach, people of faith “are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, [our light should shine] before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our Maker] in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16, NRSV).
To learn more about PHW and opportunities for your congregation to get involved, please visit us online at www.healthandwholeness.org.
Willona Stallings, PHW Program Coordinator