Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Five Activities for your Health Ministry

Empowering the people to take care of their health is a great strategy for any organization or church health program. It is not like the one-and-done big time medical missions common today. This strategy focuses on prevention which is more cost-effective and has greater impact to the community.

Here are five activities that the church can do to improve the community's health status:

1. Health Forum and Workshops

The church can host a forum on pressing health concerns in the community. This can be an educational forum to teach practical ways on how people can take care of their health. During this rainy season, the church can sponsor a Dengue Information drive in the community with practical tips on how to search and destroy mosquito breeding grounds.

Capacity building workshops and trainings for BHWs, mothers and volunteer health workers can also be sponsored by churches. This helps improve the skills of the people in taking care of their own health. I saw this when I was invited to teach mother, newborn and child health to a successful community-based health care program in Compostela Valley.

2. Vaccination

The church can partner with the local barangay in its vaccination program. An example would be the recent campaign for a Nationwide Measles and Polio Vaccination where local churches and organizations provide the venue and logistical support in the campaign. Another example is flu vaccination. As this is not routinely given for free in the health center, the church can make this one of their annual programs. The church can offer this at a cheaper price. One church in Kamuning, QC even offered flu vaccination for free to around a hundred adult members of the community.

3. Advocacy Programs

Advocacy is an activity with the purpose of persuading leaders to make policies or allocate budget that will benefit the greater good. The church can lead in prayer rallies and advocacy walks that will involve the community in persuading their community leaders to choose what is beneficial for them. In one barangay in South Cotabato, the captain was persuaded to issue a Barangay Ordinance prohibiting minors from buying cigarettes in the store after the church led the community in several dialogues with the barangay leaders.

4. Regular Health Monitoring  

Non-communicable diseases are the new epidemic that affects even middle-class and low-income families. Free BP checks and quarterly sugar (FBS) screening can easily be done before worship service starts on Sunday morning. Mega-churches and big congregations can schedule this as a Saturday church program in the community. Many evangelical churches are doing this to benefit the community.

5. Food always in the home or FAITH.

This is the name of a vegetable garden program by a faith-based organization. It uses the backyard lot of a church as a community vegetable garden where the whole community is encouraged to plant vegetables in the garden and the produce is free for the whole community. The program also teaches backyard home gardening with the church providing the seeds for free.

The health spectrum ranges from preventive to curative care. Researches has been proven that the church can have a great impact in Primary health care and the prevention of diseases. (See my next post on this topic.)

What I listed are just five activities that any church or organization can do to improve the health of the community. I have seen this work in some churches, so it can definitely be done. What other health programs do you think your church/organization can do?


Saturday, September 20, 2014

Three Reasons Doctors Do Not Join Medical Missions

It is becoming difficult for organizers to get doctors to join them in their medical missions. I am not an advocate of medical missions. Before I give you the reasons why, let me clarify that what we mean of medical missions are the trend today of one-time events of medicals consults and surgeries with giving of medicines to patients as a tool for achieving something else. Med missions are sometimes beneficial especially during emergencies but other than that, it is an ineffective practice.

Here are three reasons why:

1. Medical missions do not address the health problem.

The medical management does not address the cause of the problem. A patient may come in with Tuberculosis due to the poor sanitation of the area, or poor nutrition, or poor hygiene habits. The current trend in medical management today is holistic approach wherein the doctor not only intervenes at the medical condition of the patient but also considers the other factors surrounding the patient. These factors include the mental, social and spiritual factors. Medical management also includes patient education on how the patient can improve her living condition, environment, lifestyle and other things more than just taking the prescribed medicines. This may not be possible as time is not a luxury during med missions. Also, some cases like TB needs further patient care which leads us to the second reason.

When Jesus healed the lepers, he restored their relationship with society. Remember, patient care is more than just treating the disease.

2. Medical missions do not provide continuing patient care.

Proper medical care is continuous and personalized. When medical missions are one time event, it does not allow for patient to follow-up with their health care provider for continuing care. Imagine the popular summer medical mission providing free circumcision to young boys. If complications happen to the wound, how will the boy get follow-up care from the healthcare giver? But a better example is chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes. Continuous care is needed. Even if complications do not happen, the healthcare worker are ethically bound to continue care to the patient until they are well. This will not happen in one-time medical missions. Because of time constraints, personalized care are seldom given to patients.

When Jesus touched the sick, he touched their lives and they became his friends. Remember, the doctor-patient relationship is a contract of trust for care not for a one time meeting.

3. The ultimate goal is not patient well-being.

While medical missions looks into the health condition of the patients, the intent of the mission is not always the person's health. It is an open secret that politicians sponsor medical missions with the real intent of campaigning for people support. Churches sponsor medical missions as an evangelistic tool to persuade people to become Christians. Organizations sponsor medical missions as an outreach activity to gain prestige and recognition. There are other reasons individuals and groups sponsor medical mission but few are intent in addressing the health needs of the people. If the intent is to help people achieve good health, then they know that a one-time medical mission is not enough.

When Jesus came to heal the sick, his purpose was to heal the sick. In this context, health means a full life. Remember, health is an end not a means.

It is unethical for doctors to violate the principles of medicine. So, like most of my colleagues, I may decline invites in your one-time big time medical missions.

There maybe some benefits to the med missions but we can do better. I can name 5 health ministries churches can do. It is high time we level-up what we can do to improve the health of the community.