After doing the work of the Church Health Center for almost 28 years, it is easy for me to come to work every day and think nothing has changed. After all, my office is in the same room it has always been, and in my head I am still 33 years old. (Please don’t laugh.)
There have, however, been enormous changes to our ministry in those past 28 years, and even more are on the horizon with the move to Crosstown Concourse well on the way. As a result, many people misunderstand the extent of the work we are doing. Here are the 10 most common misconceptions people have of the Church Health Center.
1. We are a small clinic on the corner.
Actually, we are the largest privately-funded, faith-based clinic in the country, caring for over 70,000 working but uninsured patients. We help faith communities all over Memphis establish health ministries in their congregations. Our Wellness facility boasts an affordable gym and a demonstration kitchen where everyone in our community is welcome. We have a preschool because we believe that education is a health issue.
We are a clinic, but we are so much more. We’re moving the needle on health disparities and helping people live their healthiest, happiest lives.
2. Because of the Affordable Care Act, the Church Health Center is no longer needed.
There were 26 million uninsured Americans when we opened our doors in 1987. Fast forward to 2010 when the ACA began, and that number had risen to between 50-60 million plus the immigrant population. The ACA has helped 11 million people get health insurance, but that means there are millions more uninsured people now than when we began. The ACA has too many gaps to count, and the Church Health Center fills those gaps.
3. We only treat colds and minor illnesses.
Not even close. We care for the full gamut of healthcare needs because the uninsured get sick with the same things that the insured do. From broken bones to life-threatening cancer, our 1,000 physician volunteers allow us to achieve our goal of providing the same quality of care you would want your mother to receive. We offer dentistry and optometry. We offer counseling services and physical therapy. We’re here to care for your whole body, mind, and spirit.
4. We are just a doctor’s office.
In fact, our goal is that for every dollar we spend on treatment we spend a dollar on prevention. Our wellness programs are extensive, ranging from nutrition, to fitness, to spiritual care.
5. Our Wellness Center is just for our patients.
It is actually open to everyone in our community, uninsured and insured alike. There are no income requirements to become a member. Anyone can join and pay on a sliding scale according to their income.
It is actually a Certified Medical Fitness Center. That means we have staff trained to help you return to your highest level of wellness after you have had a stroke, knee surgery, or heart attack. Church Health Center Wellness also houses Child Life, which is far more than daycare for your kids while you run on the treadmill. Church Health Center Child Life offers engaging staff and curricula that prepare our youngest members to be healthy for life.
Need more proof that Church Health Center Wellness is more than a gym? We host a farmers market during the summer. When was the last time you bought a locally-grown tomato at the chain gym up the street?
7. We are only touching lives in Memphis.
Actually, we are a national, even international organization. Our magazine Church Health Reader is read all over the world and we are the home of the International Parish Nurse Resource Center, which has trained over 15,000 nurses worldwide to work in faith communities.
8. Health is only about what the doctor does.
That actually has very little with being healthy; 10%, to be precise. For that reason, we run a preschool called Perea. We have a wide array of health programs that have nothing to do with the doctor. We believe that change in healthcare starts with you. Healthcare we can live with starts with growing a new culture that features dignity, community, giving, and prevention.
9. We are a government-funded health clinic.
Nope. We keep our doors open because of the generosity of the wonderful people in our community, congregations, businesses, and foundations. We must raise almost $14 million a year to keep our doors open.
10. I am about to retire.
Sorry, that’s a myth too. I will retire only when I cannot physically come to work. Antony Sheehan has joined the Center as the President and is helping to lead us to our new home at Crosstown, but he and I are working side-by-side and will be doing that for years to come.
The most important point I am making is that the Church Health Center will and needs to exist in perpetuity. Jesus said that the poor will always be among us, so we will, too.
Ready to join us? Click here.