Holy health: Hospital program aims to boost community health [gazette.com]

by Barbara Cotter / gazette.com

Judging from the questions and statements in the survey that Patsy Janeba took one day, you could almost see her stretched out on a couch in a therapist’s office, mulling over her existence.

“In general, how satisfied are you with your life?”

“What keeps me up at night?”

“I suffer most with …”

This, however, was not your typical setting for deep soul-searching — though executives at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services believe it might be the perfect place to ask such questions. Janeba was at church, and she took the survey with the others at Trinity Lutheran Church to assess the spiritual well-being of the congregation.

The survey is one cornerstone of a relatively new Penrose-St. Francis program, the Church Health Project, part of the hospital system’s longstanding effort to boost community health and wellness by reaching people through their places of worship and emphasizing the connection between body and soul.

“Generally speaking, if you were to ask a church what its health care ministry would look like, they’d say, ‘We visit the sick and we bury the dead,’” says Penrose-St. Francis Vice President of Mission Integration Larry Seidl. “What we’re trying to do here at Penrose-St. Francis is ask the question: ‘What can a church do for its members to keep them well, or to be with them differently in the process of getting sick?’”

For about 13 years, Penrose-St. Francis has been helping churches create health ministries, with guidance from its team of Faith Community Nurses. Some of the 20 Colorado Springs churches that Penrose-St. Francis works with offer basic services, such as blood-pressure checks and flu-shot clinics. Others, including Trinity Lutheran, have a more robust program.

“It really depends on the church, and what resources they have” says Cynthia Wacker, head of the Faith Community Nurses. “We always encourage them to make sure they open it broadly enough so anyone interested in health and wellness — counselors, spiritual advisers, mental health professionals, chiropractors in the church — can be involved in the wellness of this church.”

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