OHED Equips Area's Faith Communities

January 14, 2015
By: Karen E. Butler, Director of Communications, DCI

Joe Hester, lead pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Smithfield, and deacon Elizabeth Craig review their notes during a short break at the Jan. 10 training program held for members of the DCI OHED Community Health Ambassador Program. First Presbyterian Church hosts a monthly cancer support program for its congregants. The OHED training equips ambassadors with valuable information on available health resources that they can then take back to their church families.On Saturday, Jan. 10, the DCI Office of Health Equity and Disparities (OHED) hosted its quarterly training session supporting its Community Health Ambassador Program. Representatives from more than 10 regional faith communities attended, including Joe Hester, parish pastor for the First Presbyterian Church in Smithfield, North Carolina.

“Elizabeth Craig, A deacon, recognized that many people in our parish have been touched by cancer in one way or another and initiated a cancer support group though our missions program,” recalled Hester, who received both his undergraduate and divinity degrees from Duke University. “We then teamed up with the DCI’s Office of Health Equity and Disparities for training and education. As a result, we now aware of the many valuable resources and programs and services offered by the Duke Cancer Institute and community partners in the area.”

The Community Health Ambassador Program is designed to promote health equity through education and awareness. Representatives from faith communities register to attend training sessions through which they train to become health influencers within their networks while gaining a better understanding of the many different programs and services available, especially to the underserved.

“Those attending are committed individuals who want to improve the cancer health and well-being of their family and friends and their neighbors and their colleagues,” said Cornell Wright, MPA, OHED outreach and screening patient navigation coordinator. “We provide collaborative cancer-focused education designed to reach diverse communities. Through the ambassador program, we also strive to improve and strengthen relationships between the health system and the local community.”

As Janice Campbell and others listen in, Nadine J. Barrett, PhD, MA, MS, director of the Office of Health Equities and Disparities, provides information on available cancer programs and services offered by the DCI and other organizations in the community.Durham resident Janice Campbell, 59, also attended. A teacher in the Durham Public School System, Campbell coordinates health and wellness at her church, Lincoln Memorial Baptist. Under her leadership and with the help of Karen Powell-Boone, a physician assistant at Duke, the church has obtained and installed an automated external defibrillator provided by Blue-Cross.

“Diagnosed with cancer, my mother passed away when I was just four years old,” Campbell said. “Since I can remember I have been very passionate about health and education. And I highly recommend this program to any church wanting to promote cancer health and wellness within its congregation.”

Led by Nadine J. Barrett, PhD, MA, MS, the Office of Health Equities and Disparities is dedicated to the elimination of cancer disparities and the promotion of health equity within Durham County and beyond. The Office of Health Equities and Disparities pursues community engagement and education, outreach to screening programs, patient navigation for those with cancer and research, and clinical trials support activities to ensure cultural competent clinical trial education and recruitment for minorities.

“Through the training I learned more about the role of a patient navigator,” Hester said. “I was pleased to learn that there is a dedicated contact at Duke to whom we can reach out for help in navigating what at times can be challenging healthcare maze. I appreciate Duke’s commitment to care about the entire cancer journey – not just its treatment.”

The training program included mock scenarios in which participants learned more about confidentiality, privacy and methods for guiding others in their networks to area health professionals – experts in the treatment of cancer. In collaboration with the Durham County Department of Public Health, OHED provides continuing education sessions for ambassadors.

“It is always good to be able to connect face-to-face with the community, to not only share with them about the available resources at Duke Cancer Institute but to also get a sense of their needs and interests,” Wright said. “This program truly equips health ambassadors to promote cancer health and screening information in their communities through programs and activities. The ability to be able to connect with various faith communities, without language barriers, due to simultaneous interpretation, is so powerful. The seamless flow of conversation allows for everyone’s voice and ideas to be heard.”

For more information on OHED’S Community Health Ambassadors Program, visit Duke Cancer Institute Office of Health Equity and Disparities or email Xiomara Boyce or call 919.613.6454.