Baptist Health Care
Faith Health Network
This year-old program joins the faith-based and health care communities so that church members know where and how to successfully navigate the health care continuum.
Baptist Health Care implemented Faith Health Network in 2018 after recognizing the community’s need for assistance in navigating a complex health system. Guided by its mission of helping people throughout life’s journey, Faith Health Network (FHN) combines the many resources of the health care community with the strength and support of local church congregations to promote the delivery of high-quality health care.
FHN accomplishes this by developing personal relationships with the community through congregational volunteers called “liaisons” and dedicated health care professionals called “navigators,” who are Baptist Health Care employees. The goal is to ensure that members of FHN enter the system at the right place, for the right reason, and understand that they are not alone.
“I like to affectionately call them professional dot connectors,” said Joy Sharp, the Faith Health Network program director. “When you get stuck and need to move on to the next dot, but don’t know which way to go, the congregation can say, ‘We need to call our navigator,’ and they can help them go to the next step smoothly.”
“The church is only the vehicle to get it to the community. It’s not about the church per se, as much as it is about how the church can bridge the gap between those who need information, better access, better opportunities to better health care and the entity that can provide it.” – Pastor Lonnie Wesley of Greater Little Rock Baptist Church in Pensacola
Through Faith Health Network, congregations partner with Baptist Health Care to provide support to their members, such as:
- Congregational care and visitation
- Assistance in choosing the right clinic or physician
- Mental health resources
- Education and preventive medicine through health fairs, church bulletin inserts and guest speakers on topics such as diabetes, stroke, heart health, cancer, domestic violence and foster care
- Aftercare support following an illness or treatment of a medical condition
- Advocacy, should members need to visit the hospital
Pastor Lonnie Wesley of Greater Little Rock Baptist Church said, “It’s not about the church per se, as much as it is about how the church can bridge the gap between those who need information, better access, better opportunities to better health care and the entity that can provide it.”
This year, FHN is rolling out confidential surveys in churches to capture, and ultimately help address, particular health concerns in each congregation.
FHN was created in Memphis, Tennessee, 15 years ago. The first replication was in Pensacola, Florida, but training has taken place in 25 locations nationwide. Since the program began in Pensacola in November 2017, it has grown exponentially from 20 churches in July 2018 to 50 active congregations now, with 15 churches on the waiting list. The program has spread through word of mouth from “pastor champions” and from yard signs in front of churches to market the program.
“We recognize a lot of people in the community have a faith connection, and if we can help elevate the level of education for pastors — who then help elevate education for people in the pews — it becomes a win-win for the health system, for the church and for the community,” said Sharp.