Cancer Center Enlists Churches as Partners in Advancing Health

By Robin Hindery

UCSF will sponsor a one-day symposium on September 12 to highlight the importance of faith-based organizations as crucial partners in promoting good health.

The second-annual event, “Abundant Life: A Gathering for Faith, Health and Community,” is open to churches in and around San Francisco and will attempt to foster the development and growth of “health ministries,” which UCSF defines as “special missions that integrate faith and health for their members and the communities they serve.”

Rena Pasick

The symposium is being organized by the Faith Communities Committee, a coalition of African American religious organizations and voluntary associations that is part of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Community Advisory Board.

The annual gathering of church representatives is one component of the cancer center’s Abundant Life Health Ministries Initiative, which was created in response to the high rates of chronic disease in African American communities, including many cancers, heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

The initiative seeks to build upon the prominent role of churches in the lives of many African Americans by establishing a widespread, collaborative effort to address health disparities. Eliminating such disparities is one of the primary objectives of the UCSF Strategic Plan, which calls on the University to serve the community through partnerships.

Marcus Penn

A 2004 study funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that church attendance among African Americans is associated with positive health care practices, particularly in high-risk groups such as the uninsured and the chronically ill.

As it did last year, the Abundant Life symposium will promote research-tested education programs, including “Body and Soul,” a National Cancer Institute initiative that encourages a healthy diet and lifestyle through pastoral leadership, church activities and peer counseling.

In addition, the Faith Communities Committee is currently raising funds to provide small grants and technical assistance to local churches that wish to develop health-focused programs and health ministries.

The Sept. 12 effort is being spearheaded by Rena Pasick, DrPH, the cancer center’s associate director of community education and outreach, along with Marcus Lorenzo Penn, MD, outreach coordinator for the center’s Department of Radiation Oncology. Penn’s outreach work in the community was covered as part of the Voices video profile series, which is featured on the diversity website.

The symposium will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the San Francisco Christian Center, 5845 Mission St., San Francisco.

To register or find out more information, contact Marcus Lorenzo Penn at 415/14-3690, or Wilma Batiste at 415/246-7906.

Related Links:

UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center 

Cancer Center Launches Evidence-Based Initiative with 40 African American Churches
UCSF Today, Oct. 30, 2008

UCSF Voices profile of Marcus Lorenzo Penn

UCSF Strategic Plan