Health Ministers: The Prescription For Black Health Disparities?

    A nurse giving a woman a checkup(BlackDoctor.org) — Dr. Bennie Marshall has seen first-hand the importance the health ministry makes at her faith community in Norfolk, Va. She knows one of her congregants has not been to the doctor and does not know that her blood pressure numbers are very high. She knows that another one of her congregants is trying to live healthier but is finding it hard to cut back on sodium.

    These faith members, and others like them, keep Dr. Marshall very involved at Mt. Gilead Missionary Baptist Church. For Dr. Marshall, chair of the Norfolk State University Department of Nursing and Allied Health, her professional work extends beyond the historically black college’s campus and into the sanctuary in her role as health minister.

    A 41-year career nurse, Dr. Marshall has witnessed the effects of high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease on the members of Mt. Gilead Missionary Baptist Church, a primarily African-American congregation. For Dr. Marshall, helping members make the connection between diabetes, high blood pressure, and kidney disease is deeply personal.

    “As a registered nurse and the president of the health ministry, I am fully dedicated to meeting the health needs of the members of the congregation and community,” Dr. Marshall said.

    That commitment also is extended to her family, as Dr. Marshall’s brother-in-law has lived with kidney disease for nearly 20 years.

    “I consider this my mission field, and I firmly believe that families as well as faith organizations can play a significant role in talking about kidney disease and its risk factors,” she said.

    Increasingly, kidney health has become a leading priority for faith communities as members seek support to manage diseases such as diabetes and high blood pressure. These diseases are a growing concern for African-American faith leaders working to provide health information and resources to their members. Some members with health backgrounds, especially nurses, like Dr. Marshall, are taking a lead role to stem the tide of kidney-related diseases with on-site health services.

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