DeShazo and his team of University of Mississippi Medical Center staff and medical students will be on hand for the Community Health Fair, set for 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Feb. 28 in Columbus’ First United Methodist Church Family Life Center (located at 502 Main Street in Columbus – enter at the 6th Street North entrance).
The free event will have screenings for glucose, blood pressure and body mass index, along with other informative health topics. Informational tables for churches interested in starting a health-related ministry will also be part of the event. The community and area churches are invited to attend.
DeShazo said he hopes that people who attend this free health fair screening will come to understand that “the majority of chronic illnesses that have led to Mississippi’s health crisis are preventable.”
“Knowing your health numbers and having access to health care improves the length and quality of life,” deShazo said.
DeShazo said the screeners who will be on hand for this event are exceptional medical students from all over the state who have been trained and certified by UMMC as health screeners. They will be taking blood pressures, monitoring blood glucoses, offering BMI determinations and basic health and dietary counseling to all who are interested.
“These students are Mississippi’s best,” deShazo said. “And it might be an opportunity to lure them to come to Columbus to practice.”
DeShazo, a Mississippi United Methodist, has been actively involved in the denomination’s health movement. Former Mississippi UM Bishop, Hope Morgan Ward, initiated the movement when it became apparent that the denomination had large numbers of clergy who were suffering from cardiovascular disease and losing their ability to function as church leaders.
“That discussion expanded to a larger interest to provide preventive health care for congregations and revisit John Wesley’s admonitions written in his book, Primitive Physic,” deShazo said. “With the arrival of Bishop James Swanson and his realization of Mississippi’s last place in health and first place in faith, he has identified the need to push forward with the efforts initiated by Bishop Ward.”
UMMC has stepped forward to partner in that effort through a grant from the McRae Foundation.
According to deShazo, data shows that young people who attend church as a group are more overweight than those who do not.
“This astounding fact represents a disconnect between faith and practice,” deShazo said. “Mississippi suffers an epidemic of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease that has now reached down into the adolescent age group. Something has to be done and the church should be leading in that effort.”
DeShazo said his greatest interest through the United Methodist Health Movement is in training a community health advocate and certifying them to perform the services offered by medical students for every Methodist church in the state.
“We hope that individuals in the Columbus area will step forward and attend one of our 4-6 hour training sessions and become trainers,” deShazo said. “This will allow them to train lay individuals in churches in your area to provide health screenings and referral to care for those without insurance through various settings in the area. We are also working with local physicians and clinics in this effort.”
Lee Burdine, member of Columbus FUMC and volunteer Health Ministry Coordinator for the Mississippi Conference of the United Methodist Church, said that as United Methodists, we are fortunate to be participating with UMMC Medical Center.
“Under the leadership of Dr. Rick de Shazo, UMMC has established several programs that are making a real difference in our Mississippi Conference UMC congregations and communities,” Burdine said.
Learn more about the UMMC Community Health Advocate (CHA) program (CHA) at http://www.umc.edu/cha/ or at the Community Health Fair. Burdine encourages all of the congregations in the Starkville District to consider sponsoring a CHA training event or attending a CHA training.
“Health Ministry can be a life-giving and life changing mission for your local UMC congregation,” Burdine said. “Our UM churches are located in every county in Mississippi and we can have a positive impact on the well-being of our friends and neighbors across our great state. Health is mentioned throughout the Bible. Health and well-being is a part of our daily lives within our churches. When someone or someone in your family or community develops a health issue, our churches can offer a powerful place of love, care and nurturing support. Local health ministry programs can demonstrate pure love for each other.”
Carolyn Jackson, a retired nurse, serves as the Starkville District Health Ambassador and serves as an active member of Team HOPE – the Starkville UMC District’s Health Advocacy team.
“This health fair is a perfect start for the health initiative in the Starkville District,” Jackson said. “Everyone needs to be aware of their health. This is a free screening which will allow all the communities in the Golden Triangle area to attend and not worry about having to pay. I feel this in itself is a great benefit.”
Jackson said she feels health advocacy is her duty, or calling, as a servant of God.
“Jesus said that there will be always sick and poor in this world,” Jackson said. “So being able take care of the ones in need is making a difference in someone’s life. In this way, I feel that my life will not be in vain.”
In 2011, Jackson attended the United Methodist Health Advocate Training Program. In this training, she learned more about hypertension, diabetes and Body Mass Index. The training also includes how to perform blood pressure, blood sugar checks and ways to lose weight.
As the Starkville District Health Ambassador, Jackson goes to Methodist Churches when called upon to set up workshops that are part of the Health Advocacy Training.
Jackson will be on hand at the Feb. 28 event to guide churches in setting up Health Advocacy Training programs, as well as creating health ministries within the church setting.
Starkville UMC District Superintendent Dr. Embra Jackson said he is excited that this health fair will provide an opportunity for pastors, church members and community residents to be screened for some of the medical conditions that create much hardship for so many people.
“It is our hope this will be the first of many such health fairs in the Starkville District,” Dr. Jackson said. “Health and wellness are biblical principles that we often neglect. A major portion of the Bible in general, and the ministry of Jesus in particular, is grounded in holistic health and wellness.”
For more information about the Community Health Fair and Screening, contact Rev. Sandra Brown at Columbus First UMC at (662) 328-5252.
See this story in the February 20, 2015 edition of The Starkville District Newsletter at 2-23-15 newsletter