Cigna Grant to Methodist Healthcare Aims to Improve Health in Memphis Neighborhood

Published On 01/15/2013

A new $100,000 grant from the Cigna Foundation to the Methodist Healthcare Foundation in Memphis will address health disparities in the community of Riverview, a neighborhood just south of downtown Memphis. Ninety-eight percent of Riverview’s primarily African American residents live below the national poverty line.

“Cigna has a long history in Memphis and a strong presence as a partner with Methodist,” said Mary Tate-Smith, vice president of sales for Cigna in Memphis. “Over the years, we have been impressed by Methodist’s grassroots initiatives around improving the health status of Memphis residents.”

“Our aim is to work collaboratively to develop a community-driven, patient-centered medical home model to provide wellness programs, mentoring, education, advocacy and training,” said Paula Jacobson, president of the Methodist Healthcare Foundation. “A key focus will be helping patients navigate the health care system to access preventive care and self-management of chronic disease through improved health care strategies. Many members of the community currently access care in emergency rooms. This project seeks to reduce the number of emergency room visits, while facilitating treatment at more appropriate points of care and to lower health care costs in the community overall.”

The grant will move Memphis forward at a time when, nationally, less than half the hospitals in the country have established a goal on how to use the data they collect on race and ethnicity to improve health, according to the recent AHA Diversity Institute benchmarking study. Miscommunication, unsatisfactory patient experiences and frustration among health care professionals within the hospital setting all lead to disparities, according to authors Andres Tapia and Fred Hobby in their article, “A World without Disparities, Healing Healthcare through Diversity and Inclusion,” from the November 2012 issue of Diversity Best Practices.

Methodist plans to achieve the goals of the grant by building on the groundwork already set by its Congregational Health Network (CHN), a covenant relationship between Methodist and over 500 congregations throughout the Memphis and North Mississippi area. The CHN and congregations partner to share the ministry of caring for people by helping them navigate the journey from home to medical care and back. Eight core partner CHN churches in the Riverview community are already poised to participate in this initiative.

Reverend James E. Kendrick, pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church and key leader of Health Watch Urban Ministries, said, “There is great need among my congregation and community members. I appreciate that Methodist is listening to us and seeing the church as the great asset it is. Together, we can take an active stance to improve conditions here.”

Methodist will also employ community and religious health asset mapping strategies in Riverview. In 2007, Methodist was first in the United States to replicate this particular model of healthcare community engagement that started in Africa. Using GIS mapping, focus groups and “participatory hot spotting,” the mapping process will locate both tangible health assets, such as clinics, and intangible religious health assets, such as prayer and goodwill efforts, that are considered useful in combating targeted health issues. These resources are then catalogued for healthcare providers and congregations to coordinate all aspects of patient care. Once mapping is complete, the already existing resources will be aligned and strengthened -- an innovative work of faith and science.

“What is unique about this approach is that the congregation becomes a part of the quality care team, not an afterthought or stopgap,” said Teresa Cutts, Ph.D., director of research at the Methodist Center of Excellence in Faith and Health, who serves as Principle Investigator for the grant. “We are blending the complementary strengths of congregation and hospital in a tightly woven network of care.”

CHN is a network, connecting the professional care system (including the hospital) with the natural caring system of family, neighbors and especially congregations via “human bridges.” In the CHN, full-time navigators at each adult hospital and over 550 unpaid volunteer liaisons in participating congregations complete this bridging equation. The Cigna grant will fund a CHN navigator salary and a part-time research analyst for this project.

Cigna and the Cigna Foundation have worked closely with Methodist Healthcare for years and have provided $300,000 in grants to the Methodist Healthcare Foundation since 2005. Past projects have focused on measuring the impact of interventions on heart failure, improving patient/doctor communication to enhance diabetes treatment, funding religious health assets mapping, developing the Congregational Health Network and supporting a hospice residence, all with strong results.

Additionally, reducing health disparities is a major focus of Cigna's corporate responsibility platform, Cigna Connects, through which Cigna is bringing together experts and stakeholders to create lasting improvements in senior care, child wellness, and health equity and health literacy. (

“We are grateful to Cigna for helping us make this important healthcare initiative possible,” said Cutts. “We’re confident it will make a difference in the lives of Riverview residents.”

About the Cigna Foundation

The Cigna Foundation is a private foundation funded by contributions from Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI) and its subsidiaries. The Cigna Foundation supports organizations sharing its commitment to enhancing the health of individuals and families, and the well-being of their communities, with a special focus on those communities where Cigna employees live and work.

About Cigna

Cigna Corporation (NYSE: CI) is a global health service company dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and sense of security. All products and services are provided exclusively through operating subsidiaries of Cigna Corporation, including Connecticut General Life Insurance Company, Cigna Health and Life Insurance Company, Life Insurance Company of North America and Cigna Life Insurance Company of New York. Such products and services include an integrated suite of health services, such as medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision care benefits, and other related products including group disability, life, and accident coverage. Cigna has sales capability in 30 countries and jurisdictions, with approximately 70 million customer relationships throughout the world. To learn more about Cigna®, including links to follow us on Facebook or Twitter, visit

About the Methodist Healthcare Foundation

The Methodist Healthcare Foundation is the philanthropic arm of Methodist Healthcare and serves as an instrument to assist, advance and strengthen Methodist Healthcare in the ministry of healing; in its community healthcare services; in its provision of educational excellence for students in various health fields; and its related health and humanitarian endeavors. Gifts to the Foundation contribute to conducting research and education that saves lives; to providing care for those who can’t afford it; to building important community assets like our new hospice residence for patients at the end of life; and to creating unique initiatives like Methodist’s first non-clinical center of excellence ever, The Center of Excellence in Faith and Health. For more information, visit

About Methodist Healthcare

Methodist Healthcare is an integrated healthcare delivery system in Memphis, Tenn. Founded in 1918 by The United Methodist Church to help meet the growing needs for quality healthcare in the Mid-South, Methodist Healthcare is a seven hospital system with 6 adult hospitals and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital. An eighth hospital, Methodist Olive Branch, will open in North Mississippi in 3rd quarter 2013. The system also owns or operates outpatient clinics, surgery and diagnostic centers, a residential hospice and several physician practices in Memphis, Shelby County and the surrounding area. Methodist’s Memphis Hospitals, licensed as one, has been named the Best Hospital in Memphis by U.S. News and World Report. With 1,709 licensed beds and nearly 63,000 discharges, Methodist is the third largest private, not-for-profit hospital in the country, based on admissions. To learn more about Methodist Healthcare, including links to follow us on Facebook or Twitter, go to