Emory Report

October 19, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 8

Carter Center Update

Consortium links health and faith groups

The national Faith and Health Consortium, established last January by The Carter Center's Interfaith Health Program (IHP), seeks to promote development of curriculum, training programs, community partnerships and "best practices" research that emphasize links between faith and health. Coordinated by Fran Wenger at The Carter Center and funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the consortium is a partnership of five leading U.S. universities (Pittsburgh, St. Louis, South Carolina, California at Berkeley, and Emory).

Schools of public health at each of the participating universities collaborate with nearby seminaries and/or schools of theology. "Emory's schools of public health, medicine, nursing and theology are all part of this effort," said Wenger. "The Department of Religion and the Ethics Center are also very involved. That's because this program has tremendous potential and taps into the needs and interests of so many groups."

Officials expect each of the sites will be financially self-sustaining by 2000 and will autonomously choose objectives tailored to achieving the consortium's goals. Fred Smith, adjunct professor at the School of Theology and associate director of IHP, is facilitating development of the consortium in Atlanta.

In Atlanta, a group of about 30 representatives from Emory and other leading schools such as Columbia Theological Seminary, the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), Morehouse School of Medicine, and five congregations and faith-based health groups, meet the second Thursday of each month at ITC from noon-1:30 p.m. "Students and faculty are encouraged to come and participate," said Wenger.

"The group's focus right now," she explained, "is to submit to IHP by January 1, a proposal outlining key tasks for 1999. A prime objective is to offer more interdisciplinary courses at each of the participating schools. But we're also working to find ways of determining and sharing what methods or 'best practice models' are most effective in improving community health via links between faith and health." If approved by IHP, the proposal would be implemented in early 1999.

Charlotte McDaniel, who joined the faculty of the Candler School in August, previously served as director of the Center of Business, Ethics, and Religion at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. While there, she was active in the Faith and Health consortium. "Because of the consortium, the University of Pittsburgh is now offering interdisciplinary courses that cross traditional boundaries," said McDaniel. "I'm so pleased that I will be able to continue working with this initiative through Emory. The consortium is a very interactive and synergistic process which, while complex, is extremely worthwhile."

IHP also is working with the University of Capetown in South Africa to determine if a similar initiative could be started there. This past June Nahad Sadr-Azodi, a student at the School of Public Health and an IHP graduate assistant, visited Bangalore, India, to interview students at one of the country's main theological schools--United Theological College--as part of his master's thesis, which concerns faith and health. While there, he shared information about the consortium with various theology and health organizations.

IHP staff then contacted these groups to offer additional information and initiate a dialogue about possible collaboration. "We're very excited about working with international partners," said Wenger. "Faith and health are universal issues, and through projects such as the consortium people of all backgrounds and cultures can benefit tremendously."

To learn more about the consortium, and how collaboration between faith and public sector groups can improve health in communities, visit IHP's web site at <www.ihpnet.org>, which includes a list of more than 30 faith and health-based courses in graduate and undergraduate schools nationwide.

Health and faith will also be the topic of the next Conversations at The Carter Center, titled "Spirituality and Social Change: Improving the Health of Communities," on Wednesday, Oct. 28, from 7:30-9 p.m. The event is free for Emory students with I.D. and $4 for faculty and staff. For additional information call 404-420-3804.

For information about the monthly Faith and Health Consortium working group meetings, send e-mail to <fsmith@emory.edu> or <dterrel@itc.edu>.

Ann Carney is assistant director of public information at The Carter Center.

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