by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/dr-scott-morris-discusses-churchs-role-in-transforming-health-care">Dr. Scott Morris Discusses Church's Role in Transforming Health Care</a></h1>

In Beyond Reform: Three Ways to Transform Health Care Without Dividing the Church, Dr. Scott Morris does a wonderful job of succinctly summarizing the reason churches should be involved in health care and three ways to do so. His remarks are a wonderful testimony to the importance of not only churches' role in health care, but the importance of health ministry programs in general. 

  1. Regain the Body: Dr. Morris notes that "we believe that no matter what we do to our bodies doctors can use technology to fix them when they break, or when we break them." At NEHM, we often talk about the difference between healing and curing. The medical community is concerned with curing. Churches have a unique ability to address healing (regardless of physical recovery). 

  2. Rethink Prevention: Hospitals with church names that no longer belong to denominations? We know a bit about that in the Episcopal Church. Dr. Morris's comments remind me also of testimony from Dr. Harold Koenig

“There are few places where people of all ages (young, middle-aged, and elderly), all socioeconomic levels, and all ethnic backgrounds congregate on a regular basis as happens in religious communities. This makes religious organizations an ideal route by which to provide health screening, health education, and other disease detection and prevention services. 

A few studies have shown that health education programs in churches can affect diet, weight, exercise, and other health behaviors, and this is particularly true for minority communities who often do not have easy access to such information or to preventative healthcare services... The public should also be taught how to talk with their clergy about initiating a health programs within their local religious congregation.”

  1. Reclaim Death: Again, Dr. Morris: "We have allowed a relentless application of technology to prolong life at all costs." How can we as members of the church assist our communities in changing a culture where death is viewed as a failure of the medical community instead of a natural part of our life process? 

The essay by Dr. Morris is worth a read in its entirety

Marge Hanna Zeig, NEHM Diocesan Liaison in the Diocese of Pennsylvania, recently blogged her experience at the Westberg Symposium, an event presented in conjunction with the Church Health Center. 

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<h1><a href="/blog/karen-mcdonalds-open-minded-health-ministry">Karen McDonald's Open Minded Health Ministry</a></h1>


Karen McDonald didn’t expect to be managing a thriving health ministry after she retired. But by being open and resourceful, she found opportunities to help others and inspire ministries in nearby churches.

Today Karen’s ministry, Community Health Services, serves a subsidized apartment complex in Kalamazoo, Mich. for elderly and disabled residents. Karen and her staff of 15 volunteers take blood pressure measurements; conduct education programs, including home safety and an exercise class to improve balance; provide fruit baskets and gardening opportunities; and operate a foot spa.

Karen credits a good relationship with the apartment director, support from Bishop Robert R. Gepert, time spent in prayer and active listening for the ministry’s success.

Finding Ministry Opportunities

Like many nurses, Karen retired with a desire to continue serving. A deacon of the diocese of Western Michigan, Karen pursued parish nurse training and learned about the subsidized complex at a bishop’s retreat. But the health ministry didn’t take shape until Karen spent three months meeting with agencies to investigate community needs. She asked what services were already available and inferred opportunities.

“You may think you know what’s needed, but talking to others opens up a real picture of the community, something to work with, ” said Karen. “I conducted an informal needs assessment and saw an opportunity around access to healthcare.”

The closing of a free health clinic had left a void; many felt its services were still indispensable. As Karen gathered information, she also became familiar with talent in the community. She found causes that people wanted to commit to and asked for help, support, time, volunteers and resources.

In the meantime, she developed a relationship with the apartment director. Wary from negative experiences with previous faith based outreach, the director was unsure about the church connection.

But she warmed to Karen’s cause, especially as residents began to respond positively to the ministry. Community Health Services started out taking blood pressure readings, but in time Karen had a team of volunteers and a popular foot spa effort. The foot spa creates a relaxing atmosphere where residents feel content enough to confide.

“We have conversations we wouldn’t otherwise have had; residents feel comfortable, they tell us their stories and gave us helpful feedback,” said Karen. “Residents see that someone cares when they take steps to improve their health.”

Gathering Resources, a Good Team and Budget

Although the Episcopal diocese allocates a budget to Community Health Services, Karen actively networks for donations and develops creative ideas, like a gardening activity. For example, a conversation with a nursery owner led to donated green beans, tomatoes, herbs, peppers, cucumbers and other vegetables. Residents choose vegetables they’d like to grow, volunteers help residents plant them in pots and residents care for them on their apartment balconies. When it’s time to harvest, residents contribute meals made from the vegetables they’ve grown; the potlucks have instilled a sense of community and greater interaction among residents.

One of the benefits of conducting a needs assessment is time spent meeting people. In Karen’s case, networking uncovered a pool of people eager to volunteer. “I spend time with volunteers,” said Karen. “I pay attention to their interests and try to match them with a related activity. Right now, I have a team of volunteers who enjoy what they do,” said Karen.

That joyful connection is something that’s clearly had an effect on residents, who now sign their names on contact sheets—a huge gesture of trust. Blood pressure levels, collectively, have stabilized. Karen’s team brings a fruit basket for activities, which is rapidly depleted. The number of volunteers and services is on the rise.

Obstacles and How to Handle Them

Community Health Services is now a health ministry model, and Karen is being encouraged to speak and help local churches ramp up. “This wasn’t planned,” said Karen. “I was just open to possibilities.”

But in the beginning, Karen advises health ministers to be patient. She faced resistance due to church affiliation, being new with an unproven service and lack of volunteers and resources. The timing, for all of the pieces to come together, required prayer, patience and attentiveness to residents’ wants and needs. The timing required faith.

“I got involved in other things while I was waiting, and suddenly everything came together,” said Karen. “It took courage to meet people I didn’t know. I learned to ask for help and be open to opportunities.”

Karen also credits active listening for her forward momentum. “I prayed a lot—especially when the barriers came up,” said Karen. “Was I waiting because I didn’t have clear direction, or because I was afraid? I listened for God’s guidance and made prayer very central each day. I still do.”

Karen McDonald was recently featured in her bishop's blog

Terra Hoskins contributes to the NEHM and NEAC blog on a freelance basis. As principal of Hoskins Interactive, an inbound marketing consultancy, she helps organizations improve the quality of website traffic needed to expand business. Follow Terra on her blog and on Twitter: @terrahoskins.

 photo credit: wnd.andreas via photopin cc

by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/new-resources-supporting-lets-move-part-2">New Resources Supporting Let's Move! (Part 2)</a></h1>

In my previous post, I discussed some of the motivational aspects of my visit to Washington DC and the importance of recognition in our ministries. It can make a powerful difference when our hard work is acknowledged by others (even if we like to think otherwise).

In this entry, I will highlight some of the wonderful resources we were informed about and provide the necessary information you need to put these to work in your ministry. So, let's get moving! (See what I did there?)


We Can! Ways to Enhance Children's Activity and Nutrition

This is a wonderful website with terrific resources to be shared with parents. One of my favorite tools is a Screen Time Log for parents. One could spend days exploring just this website and its links! The site is devoted to three specific objectives, each full of more resources:

  1. Eat Right
  2. Get Active
  3. Reduce Screen Time

HHS Directories

One thing I did not realize is the wealth of resources available on various government websites. These websites are full of practical, ready to use materials but this is definitely a case of being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information. However, the good news is that if you are looking for something specific, there is probably a great resource already dedicated to it, whether it is an awareness day or someone is dealing with a particular illness. How to find this information? Here are three directories that I have found invaluable:

  1. HHS.gov Twitter feeds
  2. HHS.gov Facebook directory
  3. HHS.gov Youtube channel


We have highlighted this resource before, but it continues to expand with new tools and ideas and deserves a mention here. 

  1. ChooseMyPlate.gov
  2. MyPlate on Pinterest

Videos from Let's Move! Challenge 

All of the videos are great! Here are the three video winners highlighting Let's Move! efforts around the country:

First Prize: Macedonia on the Move

Popular Choice Award: 100 Citizens: Role Models for the Future

Exceptional Achievement: Take One SMALL Step!!

We will continue to highlight more resources in future blog entries!

Matthew Ellis is CEO of National Episcopal Health Ministries.

by Matthew Ellis   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/mr-ellis-goes-to-washington">Mr. Ellis Goes to Washington (Let's Move! Event Part 1)</a></h1>

"We have to fight for all kids like we fight for our kids... every step of the way."
-First Lady Michelle Obama

Last month, I had the real honor of representing NEHM and the Episcopal Church at the 'Communities on the Move' event, coordinated by the White House and the Let's Move! campaign. There is something uniquely thrilling about receiving an invitation from the White House and I was honored to be included in this event, representing the Episcopal Church's good work on healthier living. It was clear many of the staff had worked hard on this event, as evidenced by the incredible roster of speakers, including the First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama:

We Can! Presentation and Q&A

  • Caya Lewis, Counselor to the Secretary for Science and Public Health, US Department of Health & Human Services
  • Gary Gibbons, M.D., Director, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  • Melinda Kelley and Melissa McGowan, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
  • Garrett Weber-Gale, 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist
  • Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • Shellie Pfohl, Executive Director, The President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition
  • Donna Richardson Joyner, Member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition
  • Sam Kass, Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives
  • First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama(!!!)

First Lady Michelle Obama                                                      Matthew Ellis and 2-Time Olympian Garrett Weber-Gale

Matthew Ellis and Donna Richardson Joyner                    Sam Kass, Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives

The event was a terrific balance of information, new resources, and motivational speaking (that truly was inspiring). It is clear that the staff in these agencies really understand and value the efforts that faith-based organizations and our community partners make in bringing attention to these programs. Below are just some of the resources that we discussed, along with pictures of the event and video of the First Lady's remarks.

Just before we get moving...

For me, this event demonstrated the power of public recognition for the efforts of health ministry. To have someone you respect acknowledge your work and publicly praise you can provide real inspiration during those times when things aren't quite falling into place like you would hope. Sure, there is humility in hiding our light under the basket. It's also a lot less fun and denies others the opportunity to learn about our good work and to participate in the future. I encourage each of you to celebrate your successes.

Why not start now?

Matthew Ellis

Next: A summary of resources from the day!

by Marge Hanna Zeig   |   comments
<h1><a href="/blog/the-westberg-symposium">The Westberg Symposium 2013</a></h1>

April 5, 2013

I'm here in Memphis at the 2013 Church Health Conference and Westberg Symposium - and unfortunately warm weather has not hit here yet either. But then again I have been inside all day amidst the warmth and caring thoughts of several hundred parish nurses and other health ministry advocates and practitioners.  I have decided to blog a bit about this conference for all my health ministry friends not able to attend.

Today is, coincidently the 45th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King - not far away at the Lorraine Motel. This fact was not lost on our featured speaker, Dr. Scott Morris, founder and Executive Director of the Church Health Center, who reminded us of Dr. King’s dream of the Beloved Community and of the meaning and value of love and its presence in our ministry to others. I attended a pre-conference workshop on The Model for Healthy Living – a program to improve wellness and quality of life for individuals, congregations and community. This program show how your faith, movement, work, nutrition, family and friends, emotions and medical health can all contribute to a life filled with more joy, love and connection with God. Tools for this are free and available on-line at www.chreader.org

We are enjoined in three days of exploration, learning, sharing and fellowship with a wonderful choice of workshops and some pretty great speakers. But let’s not forget that this is Memphis and there is Beale Street, good music and great barbecue – not to mention Elvis. And, appropriately enough, Memphis is the home of the National Civil Rights Museum.

My only disappointment is not yet seeing anyone else here from Pennsylvania.  But the next best thing was seeing Matt Ellis, Executive Director for the National Episcopal Health Ministries, who arrived this evening after a long drive from Indiana.  It is only a month until the annual NEHM Conference in Baltimore – it is not too late to register for this wonderful spiritual experience May 5-7. www.episcopalhealthministries.org

April 6, 2013

What powerful messages and some great workshops today. One high note was a talk by Drs. Kenda Hotz and Matt Mathews about “Faith and Health at the Foot of the Cross”, beginning with an overview of some of the social determinants of health with poverty being a major factor. They spoke to the structured inequalities that keep disparities alive – the internalized marginalization that can result in fatalism – a pervasive disposition that accepts ill health as inevitable, intractable and irremediable. And what is our role in this?  Many focus too much on Christ’s death rather than on his life and his message.  We convince ourselves that our belief is about soul salvation. But Christ saved whole human beings – our bodies in this life as much as for the next.  There is a unity of body and soul and both must be attended to. We are challenged to move from bland charity to vibrant solidarity in working for justice to end these health disparities.  We need to move from a focus on the cross and crucifixion –Good Friday – to actively working for Easter in our communities.

This conference is such a rich experience.  Today ended with a keynote address by with Andrew Young who shared some of his experiences and aspects of his friendship with Martin Luther King.  WOW! More to come…

April 7, 2013

The quality of workshops continued to be high on this last full day of events. One of the highlights was a keynote presentation by William Cope Moyers (son of Bill Moyers) – a man in recovery from addiction for 19 years who works on public policy while attached to the Hazelden Foundation.  He has written two books about this: Broken: My Story of Addiction and Redemption and Now What?: An Insider's Guide to Addiction and Recovery

Some of the concepts over these three days:

  1. Setting up formal mentoring systems for the work that we do.
  2. Using networks (formal and informal) to share and support ministries
  3. Using the concept of care teams to meet health needs in our church communities – and with this the value of web based organizing tools
  4. Need for more “how to” packets/modules for those who want to start ministries, e.g. (addiction) Recovery Advocacy, Veterans Recovery Advocacy.
  5. Recruiting and training volunteers and leadership development
  6. Promoting wellness, e.g. diabetes prevention
  7. Affordable Health Care Act and Faith Community Nursing – what is our role? 

I mailed the materials to myself so will by next week have my notes.  Papers and PowerPoints will also be available at the Church Health Center website and will access those for those who may be interested.

Marge Hanna Zeig
Church of the Holy Spirit Harleysville PA
Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania