hurches and Religious Leaders Assisting Healthcare Workers
Churches and religious leaders play an important role in the communities that they serve. They serve their communities by teaching them faith, by leading services, leading acts of worship and reading from sacred texts. In most cases they provide counsel, support, advice and comfort to the men, women, children, and family units of those communities. They are trusted and are held in high regard and what they say is usually what the members of the community will do or believe. With this level of leadership and stature, it is only right that the church and its religious leaders play a pivotal role in assisting healthcare providers in education the members of their communities. One role that would be easiest is to become a liaison for the healthcare workers and between them and the community members. The leaders can convey the messages about prevention, health promotion, wellness, illness, and disease to their congregations while putting emphasis on the importance of the topics. They can have the healthcare workers come and speak during or after services or bible study which are times when there are a great amount of the community members present. The religious leaders can also collaborate with the healthcare workers by hosting a healthcare event and/or clinic on the church grounds after services which will be another way of allowing the members of the community to be in a space of comfort. Being proactive and assisting with handing out flyers or informational pamphlets with the weekly church newsletters would be beneficial and supportive of the healthcare workers also.
When one think about it, churches and religious leaders are like gatekeepers to their communities. They hold all the pertinent information, they know all the people, they know everyone’s secrets and confessions, and they pretty much know everyone’s business. To penetrate a community, you have to build a rapport with the gatekeepers. You have to form a transparent relationship so that when you need them, they are able to present you to the community. This is what the healthcare workers will have to do. Health services can thus be tailored that meet the specific needs of the population by drawing on the expertise of members of the community e.g., faith leaders. Such interventions have the potential to be more meaningful and to have a higher likelihood of resulting in behavioral change (Heward-Mills et al, 2018). This is especially helpful since most people depend on or reflect on their religious beliefs in times of crisis or needs. The healthcare workers should be aware and follow the lead of the religion or the religious leaders. Healthcare providers must remain mindful, respectful, and empathetic of a patient’s cultural or spiritual needs because a number of individuals are calmed and comforted when they turn to their faith during major healthcare trials (www.culturelink.com). The collaboration between the church and healthcare workers extends far beyond the community. The leaders are often present right in the hospitals also. This is an unspoken partnership that can open healthcare professionals’ eyes and minds to understanding more about the actions and words from their patients.
Heward-Mills, N. L., Atuhaire, C., Spoors, C., Pemunta, N. V., Priebe, G., & Cumber, S. N. (2018). The role of faith leaders in influencing health behaviour: A qualitative exploration on the views of Black African christians in Leeds, United Kingdom. Pan African Medical Journal, 30.