Whether you are a spiritual person who prefers praying in private, someone who routinely attends worship services on Sunday, or somewhere in between – One thing is for sure, faith is at the center of it all. Undeniable even to those who may not have any religious affiliation, faith is indeed something very personal which can motivate people from all walks of life to continue in their journey even during difficult economic times, personal challenges, or in spite of illness.
Outreach involving faith-based organizations is instrumental in addressing the disproportionate gaps in health information and education for all communities, and particularly those of color. The connection between education and faith is one that can ideally set the standard for how we conduct health education by allowing us to open the dialogue about certain ‘taboo’ illnesses such as breast cancer with our congregations and religious groups.
Traditionally, African Americans have relied on faith-based organizations as an important and well-trusted source of information and support for their families, making it one of the most valued resources available to help educate people about cancer. In an effort to continue helping women, help themselves there are several ways to incorporate much needed preventive health education into our faith institutions, including:
- Identifying health professionals and cancer survivors/families in your congregation. Ask them for their input and support in helping you to develop a Health Ministry at your church, or expand your health focus to include this area;
- Establishing partnerships with other faith-based and community organizations to share information and resources to help ‘Break the Silence’ around breast cancer;
- Conducting research to keep abreast of the latest information, updates, and continuing education on breast cancer helping to further advance your knowledge and ability to remain supportive to your community; and
- Making preventive health education a standard component of your faith-based program to encourage and reinforce the importance of women getting their annual mammograms. Research shows that women who receive annual mammograms are 30% less likely to die from breast cancer than those who do not.
It is no secret that our communities have relied on churches and other faith-based organizations to provide guidance, support, and direction during some of the most difficult times in our country’s history. Partnering with faith-based leaders to address some of these unique health issues in settings where individuals are most comfortable and open to engagement will serve to strengthen the communities we live in, in addition to helping improve overall health outcomes.
Pamela A. Ratliff, MPA is the Community Education Program Manager at Northern California Cancer Center. For more info. about the 2010 African American Breast Cancer Conference or other upcoming education programs, please contact (510) 608-5000, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit www.nccc.org.