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Report: Emerging Role of Faith-Based Nurses Aids in Prevention and Management of Chronic Diseases

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Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

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Nurse

Faith community nurses focus on education and consultation to help community members prevent and manage chronic diseases.

ALBANY, N.Y. (June 1, 2009) -- Faith community nurses (FCNs) are playing an increasingly significant role in providing better access to basic health services for underserved populations, according to the University at Albany's Center for Health Workforce Studies (CHWS). The study, Findings From a Study of Parish Nurses/Faith Community Nurses in the United States, suggests that FCNs are also a mechanism of retaining valuable expertise of public health nurses after they retire.

Faith community nurses provide members of their congregation with various forms of health consulting. FCNs work from a public health model, focusing on education and consultation to help community members prevent and manage chronic diseases. The approach differs from the traditional medicine model, which primarily concentrates on acute care to provide treatment.

"Given the increasing need for prevention of chronic diseases as the population ages, FCNs are providing a service that traditional medicine just doesn't have enough time for, including talking about exercise, nutrition and smoking cessation programs," said CHWS research associate Sandra McGinnis.

Researchers conducted a nationwide survey of more than 500 faith community nurses. According to the survey, FCNs were 99 percent women with a median age of 50. Roughly 37 percent served congregations in suburban areas; 23 percent served congregations in rural areas; 17 percent served congregations in small cities (25,000-50,000 population) and 23 percent served congregations in large urban areas (over 50,000 population).

Results also showed that FCNs were likely to offer several public health services through their congregation, including blood pressure clinics, individual and family health counseling, crisis intervention and referrals.

"We expect to lose a lot of nurses to retirement in the next 10 years, so this is a potential model to recruit retired nurses and keep them involved in providing health care services to the community," said McGinnis. "Then their knowledge won't be completely lost to the public good."

McGinnis co-authored the article with Fran Zoske, director of the Health Promotion and Wellness Programs for the Capital District Physician Health Plan. It was published in the August 2008 edition of Policy, Politics and Nursing Practice.

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