Adopted by the Governing Board, June 5, 2012
For more than four decades now, the North Carolina Council of Churches has been fighting to protect the health of people of faith and all North Carolinians by advocating for universal health care; quality long-term care for the elderly; sustained funding for mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse services; the protection of everyday Americans against medical malpractice; smoke-free environments; and faith-based health promotion in places of worship.
Today we vow to continue our efforts to protect the health of all North Carolinians, especially our most vulnerable, by advocating for the preservation of our state’s public health infrastructure. One of North Carolina’s greatest assets is our local boards of health which serve as the governing and rule-making body for local public health. Board members are appointed by county commissioners as a result of their public health expertise, not their political affiliation. In the same way, county health directors are hired because of their extensive public health experience and education, which enable them to respond to public health emergencies, like natural disasters and food-borne illnesses, with great confidence and skill. The importance of this expertise and of being relatively protected from political pressures was evident when a few local boards of health and county public health directors led the way in requiring many facilities to be smoke-free, even in this tobacco state.
Finally, local health departments provide important preventive and treatment services to our most needy. These services include, but are not limited to: adult and child immunizations, breastfeeding support, health screenings, dental health care, and substance abuse treatment. Local public health departments provide a necessary safety net for many in our state who lack a medical home.
Why People of Faith Should Care
As people of faith, we are called to “do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17, NSRV). When certain groups – such as the poor and needy among us who rely on North Carolina’s public health system for their very survival – are overlooked or discounted, it insults our Maker. It honors God when we plead their cause (Proverbs 14:31).
By safeguarding local boards of health and allowing experienced, knowledgeable public health professionals to serve as health ambassadors at the county level, we support our congregations in effectively promoting health as a practice of faith and implementing healthier practices, policies and environments at the congregational level. The Council’s faith-based health initiative, Partners in Health and Wholeness, connects congregations with existing resources in the community as a way to support them in their efforts to lead healthier lifestyles. And one of the Council’s greatest allies in this work is our local health departments. Without their support, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to provide free or low-cost resources and services to all of our constituents across the state, particularly those who live in rural areas.
In response to our spiritual call to love our neighbors as ourselves and to plead the cause of the most vulnerable, the North Carolina Council of Churches recommends the following:
• The protection of state and local public health systems which provide important public health services to low-income individuals and families. This includes adequate funding for these important services.
• The preservation of local boards of health which serve as the governing and rule-making body on local public health issues. These boards should continue to be buffered as much as possible from political pressures which might prevent them from making controversial decisions on health issues.
• The preservation of local health director positions, with continued requirements of education and skills to effectively promote health and wellness at the county level.