Houses of Worship Minister to Congregations' Health Care Needs

Parish nurse programs for African-American churches in inner-city Memphis

From 1997 to 1998, staff from St. Mary's Manassas, Alabama Redevelopment Team (SMART) helped establish a network of parish nurse programs in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Memphis, Tenn.

Parish nurses are volunteer members of faith communities who receive special training in assessing the health needs of their congregants and providing them with education and counseling to improve their health status. They are not necessarily registered nurses; many are lay leaders trained in basic nursing skills.

SMART is the community redevelopment agency for the Winchester Park neighborhood, the second poorest neighborhood of Memphis.

Key Results:

  • In all, 15 churches across Memphis established a parish nurse program, including eight predominately African-American congregations serving the target neighborhood.
  • The program recruited area nursing schools, the American Heart Association, and other community health agencies to provide blood pressure screenings, run health fairs, and distribute health information.