I mean, I knew churches sometimes did things in their communities around health issues, and that many denominations have spoken out in favor of organ donation. I knew from an obesity project that some churches had fairly major interventions in place...community exercise and after school programs to get kids moving, and healthy coffee hours. And I knew that some churches fund and support free clinics and other health care organizations.
What I didn't know was just how strong some faith groups' advocacy voices have been around health care justice and health care reform. There's a big, bit group (click here if you want to see a long list of all their members) called "Faithful Reform in Health Care" that has an explicit vision of a system that is inclusive, accessible, affordable, and accessible. Hmm, those words sound very similar to ones many of us in public health and health policy use! Individual faith groups/denominations have also called out loudly and clearly for health care justice and reform. I know I'm skipping over many, but I'm purposely limiting myself to three here, or this list could go on an on (and perhaps it will in another blog post):
- the notoriously socially liberal Unitarian Universalists have an entire section of their website dedicated to health care issues, and advocate at the national and state level for change.
- the United Church of Christ also offers lots of information on its website, including specific advocacy info on issues such as Medicaid expansion and on the Supreme Court decision on contraception. Yes, these issues really do appear on a denominational website.
- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) issued a statement way back in 2003, that advocates for changes in structure and funding to increase access to care, for equitable access to care for all, for a more coherent system, for public health funding, etc etc.
Wow. These denominations and faith groups, at state and national levels, are issuing strong calls for change in public health/health policy jargon. They are doing health advocacy, plain and simple. And I would bet that many of us who work in health care and public health and health policy, who advocate for increased access to care and for Medicaid expansion and for health system changes, have no clue that these denominations and faith groups are advocating for the same things we are. I certainly didn't. I'm feeling pleasantly surprised. And pretty clueless. And perplexed. If the denomination has called for health care reform so strongly at the national level, how come the subject never arises on Sundays in church? How come equal access to care, health care justice, and a moral imperative for health coverage never come up? I'm not expecting a sermon on the merits of the ACA, but it would be nice to at least know a denomination's stance on health care reform.
Suffice it to say that my random Internet surfing just opened my eyes and renewed my faith in the advocacy power and potential of faith organizations and denominations around health care, public health, and health policy.