A new $100,000 grant from the Cigna Foundation to the Methodist Healthcare Foundation in Memphis will address health disparities in the community of Riverview – a neighborhood just south of downtown Memphis. Ninety-eight percent of Riverview’s primarily African-American residents live below the national poverty line. Poverty is recognized as a root cause of illness and disease, signaling the need to address health problems at the grassroots level.
“Cigna has a long history in Memphis and a strong presence as a partner with Methodist,” said Mary Tate-Smith, vice president for Cigna in Memphis. “Over the years, we’ve been impressed by Methodist’s grassroots initiatives to improve the health of Memphis residents.”
The grant will make it possible for Methodist to map community assets to improve health in Riverview. “Our aim is to work collaboratively to develop a community-driven, patient-centered medical home model to provide wellness programs, mentoring, education, advocacy and training,” said Paula Jacobson, president of the Methodist Healthcare Foundation. “A key focus will be helping patients navigate the health care system to access preventive care and self-management of chronic disease,” she said. “Many members of the community currently access care in emergency rooms. This project seeks to reduce the number of emergency room visits while facilitating treatment at more appropriate points of care and lowering health care costs in the community overall.”
Through the grant, Methodist will build on its Congregational Health Network (CHN), a relationship among Methodist and more than 500 congregations throughout Memphis and North Mississippi. CHN is a network connecting the professional care system – including the hospital – with the natural caring system of family, neighbors and congregations. In the CHN, full-time navigators at each adult hospital and more than 550 unpaid volunteers in participating congregations build “human bridges” as they help people navigate the journey from home to medical care and back. Eight CHN churches in the Riverview community are already poised to participate in this initiative.“What is unique about this approach is that the congregation becomes a part of the quality care team,” said Teresa Cutts, Ph.D., director of research at the Methodist Center of Excellence in Faith and Health, who serves as Principle Investigator for the grant. “We’re blending the complementary strengths of congregation and hospital in a tightly woven network of care.”