Jesus Is My Doctor

This is not a religious testimonial.

But it is a simple headline (and title of a popular Christian song) that speaks to belief, loyalty, and community.

These three attributes are central to the shaping and direction of health IT, especially as it continually boils down to the community level.  And I can’t help but wonder what role churches and other faith-based entities will assume in the expanding sphere of health informatics.

Before I continue exploring this church-health data connection, let me share an encouraging program that my church participated in about four years ago.

God, food, health … documentation?

My pastor led a fast during Lenten. Now, this was not my church’s first group fast, nor the last. But it was the best organized and promoted.

The 40-day diet limited congregants’ food consumption to fruits, vegetables, grains, and fish (no shell fish – missed my shrimps!). The fast was conducted for both spiritual and health reasons.  

Outcomes included an average of 5 to 15 pounds of weight loss among dozens of church members. Reduced blood pressure of longtime hypertension sufferers. Reports of increased energy levels and more.

My church is not remarkable or original concerning such a ritual.

Health is a major topic within spiritual circles. All the more reason why community healthcare should involve the religious base on a broader and more formal scale.

Religious leaders often have the ears and hearts of local residents. So it makes sense that churches, synagogues, and mosques could create powerful health partnerships with hospitals, clinics, managed care health plans, etc.  And not simply for neighborhood health fairs, but for data aggregation, and possibly sharing.

Faith-based organizations could also offer communities guidance, clarity, and leadership on the importance of health data collection. Segments of certain populations may not understand why various types of information need to be shared. This is where the trust in a pastor or an imam can bridge the gap between underserved consumers and analysts.

Give, receive, exchange!

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) recently released their Data for Health: Learning What Works report, an analysis of views from leaders across a range of disciplines about the kinds of health information deemed important by communities. One of the key themes that emerged was the need to create networks that integrate health with community services.

By forging connections among community, social, and health organizations, the quality of healthcare data will deepen and offer greater insight into disease prediction, treatment, and prevention.