By Raina J. Johnson
Special to the Milwaukee Times
Since 2010, Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital has had a partnership with the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), which is a collaborative of 44 churches in Milwaukee to provide health screening and other preventative care to congregants and community members in Milwaukee’s central city.
The partnership is called Urban Church Wellness. Through this effort, the healthcare services that are made available include: mammography screening, colorectal cancer screening, cooking classes, nutritional education, diabetes education, and the development of programs suggested by the church-based health liaison volunteers.
In 2012, more than 2,500 healthcare services were completed.
In an announcement made on Saturday, April 20, leaders from both the faith and health communities, added the churches of the General Baptist State Convention of Wisconsin, led by Rev. Garry B. Levy. This partnership brings in an additional 30 churches that will join Urban Church Wellness.
Rev. Levy is excited about the new partnership. “We got involved because we want to be able to lessen the disparities in the community. We’ve already had people come forth and say, I don’t have insurance but are in need of free health prevention screenings.”
Bishop C.H. McClelland is founder and president of Word of Hope Ministries, which began in 1996. Bishop McClelland worked for the Milwaukee County Department of Health and Human Services for 19 years. Word of Hope Ministries, which is a 501c3, non-profit organization provides alcohol and other drug abuse (AODA) services, job placement and training, family and individual counseling, mentoring and prisoner-reentry, among many other programming efforts.
When asked about the addition of the 30 Baptist churches to the wellness program, Bishop McClelland said, “They will expand it because they interface with people we may not because it’s not only through
congregations that people get information but people that live in the communities around these churches.
“At the end of the day, it’s a broader spectrum of services to people in Milwaukee County and even outside of Milwaukee County who know about this, who may not have insurance or may have inadequate insurance but have been challenged and unfortunately, the black population is most affected by the diseases of hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol.”
The expansion of services and casting a wider net of churches coming together to help the community and its members will benefit the entire community. “We know that people come to our churches – we want to reach the community and to be healthy. We have to take care of the mind, body and soul, the spiritual side of man, too. In order to feed the spirit, their bodies have to be ready to receive. It’s like talking to a hungry man; if he’s hungry, he won’t listen to what you have to say, so you feed him first,” Pastor Levy said.
Overall this project and collaborative effort which now includes 90-plus churches plus Columbia St. Mary’s is “about providing a service and a need in our community, our goal is make this a broad, community-wide service for people that really need it,” Bishop McClelland said.
On Sunday, May 19, 2013, the Urban Church Wellness partnership will be providing a “Know Your Numbers” Day at local area churches. Churches that register at the website, www.urbanchurchwellness.org, will be offering to participate in hypertension screening during identified time frames throughout the day to congregants and community members.