Ten-Year Project Enlists Churches to Improve Public Health

In 1992, the Carter Center of Emory University, Atlanta, launched the Interfaith Health Program, which brought together religious groups, religious foundations and public health organizations to find ways that the religious community could respond to community health problems.

Low-income families in inner cities and rural areas have limited access to health promotion and disease prevention programs. In many such communities, the local church is one of the few remaining institutions that still commands the trust of the residents, and it often serves not only as a house of worship but also as a locus of concerned action, service and support on behalf of troubled and needy families.

Key Results

  • In its first decade, the Interfaith Health Program accomplished the following:

    • Established a Best Practice Center to collect and disseminate information on faith-health collaborations. Its website contains a searchable database of 464 initiatives.
    • Spearheaded a youth firearm violence initiative.
    • Established faith-health collaboratives in six regions (South Carolina; Los Angeles; Portland, Ore.; Oakland, Calif.; Dallas; and Atlanta).
    • Formed a consortium of theological and public health schools in five cities (Pittsburgh; San Francisco/Oakland; Columbia, S.C.; Atlanta; and St. Louis).
    • Provided technical assistance to some 30 foundations formed from the sale of religious hospitals.
    • Created the Institute for Public Health Collaborations, under a cooperative agreement with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to train local faith-health teams to address health disparities.