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ORISE Expands CHRIS Program to Better Serve Communities, Eliminate Minority Health Disparities

March 10, 2005

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—Despite what many Americans would like to believe, many diseases continue to affect minorities in extreme disproportions. An African American woman is 24 times more likely to contract HIV/AIDS than a Caucasian woman of the same city, three times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma complications, and has a 30 percent greater chance of dying from cancer.

The prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and infant deaths are also off-balance when comparing American minority groups to white Americans.

CHRIS program coordinators

At the recent orientation meeting, new CHRIS program coordinators are: (L to R) Ann Chandler, Mattie Ragland, Emma Penson, Lewistine Hunter and Pat Melcher.

Four Knoxville inner-city churches—Mount Calvary Baptist, Mount Olive Baptist, St. Paul Missionary Baptist and New Hope Missionary Baptist—as well as St. Thomas of the Apostle Catholic Church of Lenoir City, which will focus on its Hispanic community members, are making steps to change this trend through the Consumer Health Resource Information Service (CHRIS) program.

The CHRIS program, funded by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is a collaborative, faith-based initiative to address minority health disparities and includes funding for computer equipment, Internet training, parish nurse training and two educational workshops/activities for the participating churches.

These new program churches will join the six original pilot project churches—Clinton Chapel A.M.E. Zion Church, First Calvary Baptist Church, Greater Warner Tabernacle A.M.E. Zion Church, Lennon-Seney United Methodist Church, Payne Avenue Baptist Church and Rogers Memorial Baptist Church—in this minority health education initiative.

The program works with churches that already have some investment in community health and enhances the outcome by providing access to online consumer health and environmental health resources from NLM and other Internet sources, equipment and valuable partnership opportunities.

Although the 15-month pilot project ended in 2004 and is no longer funded by NLM, the pilot churches continue to serve their communities using the knowledge and resources attained through the CHRIS project. Community outreach initiatives and health awareness of church members at First Calvary Baptist Church were strengthened through the CHRIS project.

“The CHRIS project has intensified our efforts to target health concerns that intersect the lives of many of our congregation’s members. Through the efforts of our parish nurse, we are able to educate members about significant health issues which many have already raised with their personal physicians as a result of our efforts,” said Rev. George W.C. Lyons, Jr., senior pastor of First Calvary Baptist Church.

The next phase for CHRIS, which is administered by the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), is to expand into a long-term program for the purpose of replication of the initial project on the local, state and national levels.

ORISE, along with NLM, is currently developing a CHRIS replication manual and toolkit that will assist churches or other religious entities from across the nation in establishing a similar CHRIS program within their own communities.

“The challenge will be to facilitate expansion of the program through state and national replication. The lofty expectation is that communities throughout America will recognize that CHRIS is a flexible program that can be modified to address health needs across racial/ethnic groups,” Womble said.

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