Improving Health, One Neighborhood at a Time

Published On 03/06/2013

Reverend James E. Kendrick, Joy Crawford, and Mike EdwardsReverend James E. Kendrick, pastor of Oak Grove Baptist Church and key leader of Health Watch Urban Ministries (right), Joy Crawford, Congregational Health Network Navigator (pictured middle), and local resident Mike Edwards gather outside Oak Grove Baptist Church to discuss the change they hope to see thanks to a new grant from Cigna Foundation in partnership with Methodist Healthcare Foundation. The Cigna Foundation has granted $100,000 to help fund efforts by Methodist Healthcare’s Congregational Health Network (CHN) to help improve the health of Memphians living in Riverview, a neighborhood just south of downtown Memphis.

 “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. “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.”

Reverend Kendrick says, so far, he thinks the work is making a difference.

“What we've tried to do is minister to people on the street corner. We're trying to prevent the children from becoming the people on the corner. We're trying to turn the men and women on the corner back to the children in the schools. We can bridge that gap and work in the middle - keep the children from perpetuating that pattern and that behavior. But, we believe that health is everything. If we can create a healthy physical practice and lifestyle among the residents here, then I think that will help greatly.”

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 Healthcare 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 Kendrick says, “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.”

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.

 “We are grateful to Cigna for helping us make this important healthcare initiative possible,” says Teresa Cutts, Ph.D., director of research at the Methodist Center of Excellence in Faith and Health “We’re confident it will make a difference in the lives of Riverview residents.”