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November 4, 2002

$1.5M grant will promote faith-based healing

By Tia Webster

An Emory program that represents a unique combination of public health and religion has received a $1.5 million grant designed to promote community health in seven states from Georgia to California.

The Interfaith Health Program (IHP) of the Rollins School of Public Health is one of 21 “intermediary” groups chosen by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to disperse $24.8 million worth of funds and technical assistance to faith-based organizations.

“Faith- and community-based organizations are often the most effective groups in carrying out the purposes of HHS programs, yet many do not have the staff or expertise to successfully apply for our funding,” said HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson. “Emory will help us begin a new effort to help faith- and community-based organizations get a fair and equal opportunity to compete for HHS funds.”

“Strong Partners,” the name of Emory’s interfaith health initiative, is a partnership with nine foundations in seven states. Together these foundations have directly allocated $1,460,000 of their funds to local faith-based organizations. HHS is appropriating $1.5 million to the Emory program, which in turn will disburse $900,000 to the foundations.

IHP will augment the funds by providing technical assistance and serving as a clearinghouse of national expertise in promoting public health through faith-based communities. The technical assistance includes helping local groups effectively access funding sources, operate and manage their programs, develop and train staff, expand the reach of programs into the community, and replicate promising programs.

“Where others see failure, we see people and communities of promise,” said Gary Gunderson, IHP director. “The commitment from ‘Strong Partners’ is a small fraction of the funds that flow from these foundations into the communities they serve every year. The federal funds will amplify this flow and build the capacity of faith-based organizations to work collaboratively for community change.”

James Curran, dean of the Rollins School, said the HHS appropriation is welcome recognition. “Many of the most pressing public health problems of our time are rooted in behavioral and social conditions as much as they are in microorganisms or environmental toxins,” Curran said. “Therefore it is important to recognize that solutions to these problems must have many dimensions beyond the medical, and that communities of faith make vital contributions to the health of the public in many ways.”

One example of the kind of program that will be supported by these grants is Atlanta’s Saint Joseph’s Mercy Founda-tion, a private, not-for-profit fund-raising entity dedicated to the Sisters of Mercy philosophy: compassionate care of the total person and his or her family.

The Center for Health Ministries of Saint Joseph’s Mercy Care collaborates with local churches, synagogues and other faith centers within metro Atlanta to provide holistic, preventive health care services for congregations and surrounding communities.
“Saint Joseph’s actively participates in the healing ministry of the faith community through its mission to serve the whole person and achieve community wellness by promoting a concept of health inclusive of all elements of life,” said Philip Mazzara, Saint Joseph’s president.

By offering the services of licensed professional nurses, the program develops a relationship between the two centers of healing while providing a ministry to communities through education, counseling and caring.

Based in the Rollins School, IHP began in 1992 as a program of the Carter Center. It has worked to advance the health of communities by building collaboration between faith groups and key partners, especially in public health. The IHP also is working under a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create the Institute for Public Health and Faith Collabor-ations, which trains teams of leaders in both faith and health to develop projects attacking racial, ethnic, social, economic and geographic disparities in health.