Hospital partners with churches to provide free health screenings


— For Jones Tabernacle Baptist Church Pastor Guy Robinson, the health and wellbeing of the Baltimore community is of utmost importance. Robinson, a Charm City native and married father of four, said part of his ministry is outreach, including encouraging better health.

“As people of faith, it is our desire to see the whole community come out for health screenings and for everyone to be healthy,” said Robinson, whose church has teamed with the Central Baptist Church, Bon Secours Hospital and MECU of Baltimore to provide free health screenings, back to school supplies, food and other activities at the annual Community Day and Fall Festival that goes from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 14, 2013.

For the past 25 years, the churches, which are located adjacent to the hospital in the 2000 block of West Baltimore Street, have hosted a fall festival where about 1,000 people gather to celebrate the community.

Because of barriers to health care and some medicines for many parishioners at the predominately black churches, the hospital sought to connect with the church to reach those who are underserved, Robinson said.

Also, unlike many of the initiatives in health care reform, a hospital-church partnership likely does not require government financial backing because many of the major hospitals have the necessary means to fund these alliances, he said.

Having churches involved in their members’ or neighborhoods’ wellbeing also is a concept that has been around for quite some time, said Dr. Samuel Ross, CEO of Bon Secours.

The reason for the partnership boils down to a simple equation: finances. The church presents patients from its membership and the community at large while the hospital provides the services and, in the process, lessens the dangers of a community being overcome by disease and other illnesses.

“The concept recognizes that maintaining good health and managing disease or illness takes a holistic approach, treating the mind, body and spirit,” he said.

The screenings and services that are scheduled to be provided inside the hospital, include an “Ask the Doctor,” segment, and screenings for vascular disease, diabetes, HIV, high blood pressure, prostate, colon cancer, renal, glaucoma and others.

The fair will include physical therapy check ups, behavioral health assessment and education, first aid education, fitness demonstrations and financial education.

“If you look at statistics in West Baltimore, you will see the significance of health disparities, particularly in minorities, who have the worst indicators of all chronic illnesses and diseases,” Ross said.

“We are at the worst end of the spectrum and we at the hospital have been talking to the community and the churches, which have been at this for 25 years,” he said. “We are doing this because we really believe in having healthy communities.”

Encouraging neighbors to take an active role in protecting their health is of paramount concern, said Rev. Rodney Morton of the Central Baptist Church.

“The church is all about health and we believe in a holistic approach to good health,” Morton said.

The festival will take place at the intersection of Baltimore and Pulaski streets and also will include free school supplies, a magic show, face painting, arts and crafts, marching bands, raffles and prize giveaways, and free healthy snacks and food.

“Bon Secours is French and translates in English to, ‘Good Help,’” Ross said.

“Being good help is in our name and it’s what we are here to provide in our community. One of our goals is to ensure people who live in our community have access to quality healthcare. During community day our neighbors will have access to several primary care physicians and health screenings from basically every department within the hospital.”