Community Health Assessment
August 2, 2022
By Rev. Rob Parsons
I recently heard the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary at the General Board of Church and Society, speak at Lake Junaluska. At one point, she spoke about the amazing effects that representatives from the United Methodist Church have when they talk with representatives of our national government. When those conversations are rooted in love and justice, they are central to our commitment to “Follow Jesus and Make Disciples for the Transformation of the World. Church and Society’s website says,
“Scripture both inspires us and informs our advocacy. In the Old and New Testaments, we hear God’s call for us to do justice (Micah 6:8), to repair brokenness in our communities (Isaiah 58, 61), and to love one another (John 15). The prophets and Jesus consistently warn leaders who would oppress and deny justice to others. And throughout the Bible, God calls faithful women and men to challenge these unjust leaders and serve as advocates for justice and peace.
The general secretary also reminded us that peace and justice advocacy at the national level is only part of our partnership for the transformation of the world. We also need to be organized and locally committed for the transformation of our local communities. We can and should advocate with our local elected officials for peace and justice in our neighborhoods.
I want to offer a powerful space where a gospel-inspired voice is often missing. Community Health Assessment. It happens in a 3- or 4-year cycle in every county in North Carolina. Health related data is gathered by your local Health Department, shared with many agencies and organizations in your county and then those people develop a Health Improvement Plan. You can find your Community Health Assessment by searching the internet for “Community Health Assessment (your county)”. It not only provides great information, but also the names of the people in your county who are working on the most strategic issues for change.
Now here’s the interesting part. In your community, there are leaders in secular jobs working hard to “repair brokenness” and “to do justice” who would love to have people of faith take up this yoke with them. There are leaders in my community who look to the concerned and engaged pastors of the community to dismantle the shame that covers issues of mental health and substance misuse. Shame is one of the roadblocks to better health in our neighborhoods. Recently, while speaking with a county health official about our Community Health Improvement Plan, I asked what’s the greatest need for improving our mental health and substance misuse issues. After naming some resources, he said the greatest need is to break down the shame that prevents dealing with the problems. The county needs the will to take on the problems honestly, openly, and without judgment. And that, is on you, Rob. The churches in our county must actively take down the shame that they promoted or implied in the first place.
I’m working on it. How about you? Go investigate your Community Health Improvement Plan, find out who you can collaborate with and do your part as people of faith seeking to “repair brokenness”.