Area faith leaders came together at Watauga Medical Center on Thursday to discuss the AppFaithHealth program, which helps congregations and the healthcare system work together to create healthier communities. Clergy members from several faith traditions were in attendance, including Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Evangelical Christian, Baptist, Baha'i, and more.
Appalachian Regional Healthcare System (ARHS) Pastoral Care Director, Melanie Childers, launched the program just a year ago, and it already includes more than 65 community faith leaders. With the addition of AppFaithHealth Connector Jennifer Whittington, communication between the healthcare system and the local faith community continues to improve. The goal is to break down the barriers that prevent patients from receiving the spiritual care they need.
There are several ways a local faith community can be involved.
Tier 1: Pastoral participants are issued a parking pass and official badge, and receive orientation for serving their congregants in the hospital.
Tier 2: Congregations decide to partner with AppFaithHealth to work toward the holistic health of the community. Congregation members may sign up to automatically allow ARHS to contact their clergy if they are ever admitted into the hospital. These congregations take an active role in helping congregants recover and thrive after discharge from the hospital
Tier 3: Eventually, Childers envisions a partnership in which local congregations support patients who are not connected to a faith community, but who need tangible assistance after discharge from the hospital.
"Local churches seem to be more community-minded. There is a unique collaboration between faith communities and the local school systems, and now we're fostering that with healthcare," said Wes Berry, pastor of the newly launched ReGeneration church in Deep Gap.
ARHS President & CEO Richard Sparks also addressed the group, saying, "What you are doing is very important. The healthcare system is very focused on prevention and wellness. The keys to future higher quality of life include physical health, but also behavioral and emotional health. You can have a tremendous impact in that area."
Faith Communities who want to be involved should contact Pastoral Care Director Melanie Childers at (828) 266-1178.