Back row standing from left: Yvonne Askew, MSN, RN-BC, Faith Community Nurse and Congregational Health Promoter Educator; Sandra Dee Carver; Kerry Hughes; Rev. Duane E. Diggs; Mignon Otis. Front row from left: Eunice Bates; Della Miller; E. Dottie Watkins; Kim McMillan

Faith-based community organizations are playing a new, critical role in bringing healthcare and wellness awareness directly to community members where they live, work and worship.

Recently, a dedicated group of community members from eight area ministries (Durham Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, Greater Refuge Temple, Greater Royal Worship Center, Health & Healing Circle Ministry, Praying Hands Ministry, Second Chance Ministries, St. Paul’s A.M.E. Zion Church, and Wesleyan Church of Hamburg) completed a two-day Congregational Health Promoter (CHP) training program. As a result, the ministries now have a trained resource within, to positively impact the overall health and wellness of their congregations.

“Linking faith communities with health promotion allows the congregations to offer health and wellness education to their assembly, while also inviting members of the surrounding community to support their efforts,” explained Yvonne Askew, MSN, RN-BC, Faith Community Nurse, Catholic Health, and Congregational Health Promoter Educator.

“Congregations serve their communities in many different ways, providing support to members when they need it most,” she added. “This effective communication system can now include a constant reminder of the importance of healthy living, while offering resources and help to achieve better health.”

Coordinated by Millennium Collaborative Care, Community Partners of WNY, and Catholic Health’s Faith Community Nursing Program, the two-day CHP training was held September 16 and 23 at Lincoln Memorial United Methodist Church, 641 Masten Ave., Buffalo. It consisted of some key topics including:

  • Health Literacy
  • Medications Safety
  • Healthy Living
  • Hypertension
  • Mental and Emotional Health
  • Nutrition and Diabetes
  • Health Confidentiality
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections

The result was the certification of eight new Congregational Health Promoters who are now ready to serve their respective Faith organizations:

Name Congregation
Eunice Bates Praying Hands Ministry
Sandra Dee Carter Greater Royal Worship Center
Rev. Duane E. Diggs Second Chance Ministries
Kerry Hughes Wesleyan Church of Hamburg

Kim McMillan Durham Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church

Della Miller Health & Healing Circle Ministry
Mignon Otis Greater Refuge Temple

E. Dottie Watkins St. Paul’s A.M.E. Zion Church



“A ‘Congregational Health Promoter’ is a member of a congregation who has a desire to help people live healthier lives,” explained Ebony Patterson-White, Community Health Worker Coordinator, Millennium Collaborative Care. “These individuals may or may not have medical backgrounds.”

“More than the absence of disease, health is a process in which the body continually works on being ‘well’,” added Askew. “In this spirit, Congregational Health Promoters are poised to put their congregation and surrounding community on a path to improved health.”

The primary objective of the training program is to enable each Faith Community to deploy a Congregational Health Promoter who leads the health ministry in:

  • Promoting a healthy lifestyle within the congregation and community through education and encouragement.
  • Identifying people who may be developing an illness which could be serious.
  • Being aware of people with long-term or chronic illness.
  • Referring people to their own physicians, a physician in the community, or the physicians who are Partners of Community Partners of Western New York and/or Millennium Collaborative Care, if needed.
  • Assisting the congregation in sponsoring health events or activities which will raise health awareness and medical concerns of the people in their church or community.
  • Keeping the Congregational Leader informed of all health ministry plans and events.
  • Confidentially sharing any urgent health needs and concerns with the Congregational Leader or such persons that he or she designates (with the permission of the individual).
  • Recruiting other Congregational Health Promoters to increase the ministry.

“The community based organizations (CBOs) who assisted in the training provided concentrated knowledge that could not be obtained any other way.  Getting to know each individual participant, their congregations’ needs, as well as their passion for health promotion, reinforced that the need exists for this training,” said Yvonne Askew.

“My goal is to have at least one CHP in every congregation. By forming a safety net comprised of CHPs, Faith Community Nurses, and CBOs, we can provide consistent health and socioeconomic resources to community congregations.  Thus, providing a place where everyone can obtain accurate and needed information. We are thrilled with the success of our first two-day training session. It was a blessing to provide the information the participants need to assist in changing their congregations’ health habits,” she concluded.



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