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Most Churches Providing Some Health Services, Survey Shows

November 15, 1991

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ More than three-fourths of churches provide at least one health service and half provide three or more health-related programs, a National Council of Churches survey has found.

″Many of the churches are reclaiming their historical role in health and healing,″ said Dr. Kenyon C. Burke, a council official. But he said churches ″cannot supplant and should not take the responsibility″ for health care that the private sector and government share.

The national survey, released Thursday, showed that churches are most likely to provide nutrition, substance abuse and mental health services. More than half of the nearly 1,900 churches responding to the survey offered one of those three services.

Churches also participate in a broad range of other health services and, the survey said, often serve as ″key intermediaries for people with health needs. Churches function as brokers and referral sources, as educators and financiers, and even as care providers for people in need.″

The survey results will be used to inform the religious community, health care providers and advocates about the nature and extent of church-sponsored health activities in order to guide future program and policy development, Collins said.

Fran Burnford, a representative of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, said the national council also hopes to encourage demonstration projects for child health services.

But representatives of the council said churches alone cannot remedy what the group considers a crisis in health care.

″The crisis is here with us. We believe the religious community has an extremely important role to play in addressing the health crisis,″ said the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, general secretary of the National Council of Churches.

While churches often do that by covering local gaps in health services, many churches don’t have the resources to help people with more significant problems, officials said.

″For some concerns, such as lack of health insurance, inadequate prenatal care and substance abuse, the current response from churches falls far short of perceived and documented needs,″ the study concluded.

The New York-based council represents 23 Protestant and nine Orthodox churches, which have a combined membership of 42 million.

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