Since its inception over 110 years ago, the Shiloh Baptist Church (New Site) and its predecessor - the Shiloh Baptist Church of Fredericksburg - have played significant roles in providing for the well-being of the greater Fredericksburg community. This spirit of diligently serving the community continues today in the many programs of the church, including the Health Care Ministry (H.C.M.).
During the Civil War, the original Shiloh Church served as a hospital for Union soldiers. The 'wear and tear" of the extensive use of the facility ultimately contributed to the destruction of the back wall of the church. When the church moved to a new location (the present location) on Princess Anne & Wolfe Streets, the church continued its spirit of community service. In addition to serving as a recruiting station for soldiers during the early 1900 s, the building played a pivotal role in the development of educational opportunities for youth in this community as the site of the first school for African-Americans. Continuing in the tradition of providing health care for the community that began with the Civil War Hospital, Shiloh Baptist Church "New Site" now sponsors a very active Health Care Ministry
H.C.M. is an outreach ministry of the church which was formed as an outgrowth of the vision of the pastor of the church, the Rev. Dr. Theodore A. Cunningham, Sr. Dr. Cunningham, also a registered nurse and a former nursing home administrator, explored options for outreach ministries while conducting his doctoral dissertation research. His goal for the church then became the development of a Health Care Outreach Ministry for screening diseases for which African-Americans are at high risk.
The goal of the Health Care Ministry is to educate and inform church members and the community at large about health issues that they are faced with today. The Health Care Ministry provides a forum for local health care providers to bring health information to educate the community. They also discuss prevention and other health issues. It is staffed totally with volunteers and advised by a very capable cadre of health care professionals who are members of the Shiloh "New Site" congregation. The H.C.M. has worked closely with other organizations in the community which address health-related issues, including the Mary Washington Hospital. For example, MWH Associates have provided training and resources for hypertension, blood sugar and diabetes screening.
H.C.M. serves a very important role in the community because it brings high quality health care and education to many who might not otherwise have access in a setting that many of its patrons feel more comfortable than they would be in some of the traditional settings for the provision of health care and education. There are approximately 20 health care providers that participate in the health fairs. These services are in the fields of podiatry, dental care, blood screening, high blood pressure checks, eye examinations, mammograms, diabetes screening, physicals, immunizations and nutrition. These examinations provide immediate feedback to participants. If a health problem is identified, referrals can be made at that time. For example, there were more than 60 blood pressure checks performed at the June health fair at the Hazel Hill Apartment, a subsidized housing project. There were six participates identified at risk, including one individual who was taken to the hospital immediately after being screened. Others were referred to local physicians. Through this screening, they were able to seek medical attention. This is one of the benefits in providing the local health fair the community.
The health fairs are held in communities that do not have convenient access or transportation to local medical facilities. The mobility of the health fair provides the opportunity to directly bring health services to the community. By screening, testing and educating the participates, we have greatly improved the health status of these individuals and the community at large. This is a unique and vital function of the health fair.
A 15-passenger van is available to provide accessibility to the health fair for others who might not have access to transportation to attend H. C. M. programs. Many of the persons participating in H. C. M. activities are individual residents of Spotsylvania and Stafford Counties, and a smaller number reside in the outlying areas of King George, Caroline, and Orange Counties.
H. C. M. serves a critical role in the delivery of health and wellness education in the African-American community, one of the most medically under served populations with some of the highest risk for many chronic diseases and health conditions. Many of the seminars and programs address some of the ailments and health conditions that affect African-Americans at much higher rates, such as lung cancer, breast cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and prostate cancer. Although the activities of the H.C.M. address many of the critical health issues plaguing the African-American community, the membership of the committee is racially mixed and its programs and services are available to all, regardless of race or religion.
Based on the attendance of these events, over 1000 persons have been served through H.C.M. program offerings since 1993. At least 30 people have been identified as having hypertension and at least 12 persons have been identified as diabetics. Most of these persons were not aware that they had the symptoms of these diseases prior to their H. C. M. screenings.
H. C. M. has also been instrumental in the dissemination of health care articles, reports, and brochures. It is the desire of H. C. M. to present all information and services in innovative ways such that as many individuals as possible have access, especially those who normally do not have access. For example members have constructed bulletin boards to creatively present health care issues such as Breast Cancer in such a way that is not uncomfortable or embarrassing. Not only is the information helpful to those who might have the particular illness, but also for others who might come into contact with others who might need to be screened.
We have been contacted by other organizations and churches to serve as consultants or to sponsor health fairs in their communities. The continuing growth of Fredericksburg and the surrounding communities dictates the need for expanding the number and size of the local health fairs. The Health Care Ministry of Shiloh Baptist Church New Site is committed to continue providing these services to Fredericksburg and the surrounding communities. The expansion of this program would also serve to improve the community's general wellness, increase the awareness of health problems in the community and provide health services to individuals with special health needs.
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