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Memphis churches, hospitals work to improve congregants’ health

The Washington Post, October 5, 2011

Two mainstays of the Memphis community -- the Methodist Le Bonheur hospital system and nearly 400 local churches -- have teamed up for an innovative program that keeps church members healthy while reducing health-care costs. If not actually made in heaven, it's a match that has significantly benefited all parties. Other health-care systems are taking note. Methodist says 70% of its patients belong to churches. To help people get the care they need when they need it, the system assigns hospital staff, appropriately called "navigators,'' to work with volunteer liaisons at area churches that have joined the health system's Congregational Health Network. When a member of one of these congregations is admitted to the hospital, the navigator notifies the liaison. The liaison then plans a visit, if the member wishes, "so they have a support structure, not just the nurse and doctor," says Valerie Murphy, the liaison for her small church of six families in Millington, a rural area north of Memphis.