Improving Health Care in the Faith Community

23 01 2012

By Caroline Hope Griffith
DGHI Associate in Research

How can spiritual leaders and faith-based institutions use reconciliation to help health care providers work together, improve quality and accessibility of care, and improve the well-being of individuals, families, and communities?

On Friday, we asked seven health professionals from Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, and the U.S. who gathered this year at the GLI Institute to share examples of the ways in which the faith community could use reconciliation to improve health care in this region.

Health leaders at the GLI Institute: Caroline Hope Griffith (Duke), Peter Asiimwe (Uganda), Dr. Edith Namulema, (Uganda), Rev. Deogratius Msanya (Tanzania), David Toole (Duke), Dr. Peter Morris (U.S.), Dr. Sabina Mtweve (Tanzania), Darriel Harris (U.S., working in South Sudan), Dr. Jean Kagia (Kenya) I’d like to thank Duke alumnus Darriel Harris for providing the photos for my blog posts.

An educator and former nurse from the Congo explained a situation in her town that rendered doctors and nurses powerless in serving a criminal in their hospital. A man suspected of murder was taken to the hospital, but the army wouldn’t allow the doctors and nurses to take care of him. Community members came into the hospital to torture the man, and he was eventually taken outside and killed. She believes that the faith community could help to empower hospital staff so they could better protect patients’ rights.

A Reverend from Tanzania noted that there is a tension between doctors and nurses in his country. Doctors consider themselves superior to nurses and stigmatize the nurses (this tension exists in the U.S. as well). He believes that the church can help different health care providers learn to respect one another so quality of care does not suffer.

An HIV/AIDS doctor from Kenya discussed the many challenges faced by children of discordant couples (when one parent is HIV positive and the other is negative). The child is stuck in the middle and becomes the victim of his parents’ struggles. She believes that spiritual leaders can help the parents to reconcile with one another and provide a safe place for these children.

A member of the Ugandan Catholic Medical Bureau noted that church leaders are increasingly separating themselves from health care because they see health care as the concern of medical professionals. However, spiritual and physical needs are intertwined and faith-based facilities in Africa provide much of the region’s health care. He believes that church leaders have a responsibility to re-engage and provide support to health leaders and facilities.

While faith communities do not have all the answers, these stories demonstrate that there is an important role for faith communities to play in addressing the conflicts faced by health professionals and their patients, families, and communities.

The GLI Institute came to an end on Saturday. Over the next year, we hope to work with these seven health leaders to develop a new seminar series for the 2013 Institute where health and faith leaders can more deeply explore the connections between health and reconciliation.

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2 responses

25 01 2012
Peter Asiimwe

Thanks Carol for this. Look forward to continue working to engage faith leaders in health care delivery in Africa. It was great participating in that forum.

26 01 2012
Nikki

What an interesting article thanks for sharing! I look forward to hearing more.

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