A golden opportunity for each church congregation to be a community health center...
Community Health Expos
By Peter N. Landless and Allan R. Handysides
We hear a great deal about church members being medical missionaries and working with the health needs of the community in which we live. How may we practically implement this approach?
Health is pursued and desired by all nations and peoples of the world. Some territories have very advanced health-care programs, and generally, health care is focused within systems that are designed to diagnose and cure diseases. Because health care is expensive, in many places its availability to all is a challenge.
Public health measures of clean water, sewage, and immunization programs have made a major impact on decreasing infectious diseases and increasing life expectancy. But even these measures are not equally available around the world. Additionally, while there has been much emphasis placed by governments on public health measures, the so-called noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) have increased dramatically and are related largely to lifestyle factors. The NCDs include mainly heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and chronic respiratory diseases. These are diseases that affect all people and communities.
The main risk factors are well known and are similar globally:
n tobacco use
n consuming foods high in saturated and trans fats
n excessive salt intake
n alcohol consumption
n excessive sugar intake—especially in sweetened drinks
n physical inactivity
NCDs have become such a challenge that the World Health Organization and the United Nations have held high-level global meetings to bring attention to these diseases and to try to eliminate them or at least decrease the number of incidences. Many of the NCDs are totally preventable. Individuals at risk can be readily identified. This is a golden opportunity for each church congregation to be a community health center and each church member a health promoter.
How do we go about making a difference in our communities and making friends? We can start by organizing walking and fun-run events; for example, the five-kilometer fun-walk/run event is very popular and a good place to start. In conjunction with the walk, a health expo, or health fair, can be organized. Such health events generally have various health stations that demonstrate different aspects of health and measurements of physical health and well-being. Blood pressure, blood sugar, and even cholesterol checks can be done cost effectively and efficiently. Body weight and body mass index (BMI) measurements are very informative; between this and an awareness of the blood sugar level, many who have been through health fairs have been alerted to their being diabetic or prediabetic. Basic vision testing can be done without expensive equipment.
Such events are excellent opportunities for public education on healthful nutrition, quitting smoking, the reasons to avoid alcohol, the importance of exercise, use of water internally and externally, responsible exposure to sunshine, balance in life (temperance), breathing deeply, and the need to get outdoors. Because so much of the world’s population is sleep-deprived and “hooked” on the almost-incessant use of electronic devices, the station emphasizing rest and sleep is always a needed and appreciated stop for most visitors.
Cooking demonstrations and vegetarian cooking classes may be advertised and conducted as a follow-up. We were deeply impressed by a station with a difference at Chitungwiza, Zimbabwe, which was a cooking school for deaf individuals! So thoughtful and wonderfully received!
This type of health endeavor is being done around the world and is making friends and sharing the grace-filled message of health and hope. It truly meets people’s needs in a practical way and demonstrates God’s love and compassion.
What will the outcome be? We’re not sure. But we know that those whom we meet and serve will know we are Christians by our love!