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The Voice of the Black Community


National forum brings black churches, health advocates together
Healthy Churches Conference Nov. 19-22
Published Saturday, November 16, 2019 11:29 pm
by Herbert L. White | The Charlotte Post

Dr. Pernessa Seele is founder of the Balm In Gilead, which is hosting its sixth annual Healthy Churches Conference Nov. 19-22 at the Sheraton Center City.

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Healthy churches need healthy parishioners.

More than 500 participants from the faith, medical and corporate communities are expected for the sixth annual Healthy Churches conference Nov. 19-22 at the Sheraton hotel in Center City. The conference – which was first held here in 2016 – brings together black public health and faith leaders to build alliances to strengthen faith communities to address health disparities among African Americans.

“Charlotte’s treated us so well that we’re coming back again” said Pernessa C. Seele, convener of the forum and founder and CEO of The Balm In Gilead Inc., a faith-based organization that provides support to reduce health disparities in the African American community. “This conference is about bringing the public health and African American faith community together to find solutions about the health challenges we face.”

The nonprofit Balm In Gilead develops educational and training programs designed to establish sustainable, integrated systems of public health and faith principles to improve health outcomes for people in urban, rural and remote communities.  

“When you look at all the health challenges we have – whether it’s diabetes, Alzheimer’s, HIV, prostate cancer, breast cancer – you name it, we have alarming rates of it,” said Seele, an immunologist and native of Lincolnville, S.C., which is near Charleston. “I believe we need every church serving African Americans that have a consecrated, intentional health ministry. This conference is looking for pastors, it’s for business, it’s for deacons, it’s for missionaries, the people who run the kitchen ministry. It’s for everybody involved in our community who is concerned about health.”

The conference’s objective is to strengthen skills and leadership of ministers and congregations who work with church health ministries and auxiliary groups, including the kitchen/culinary teams, nursing units, transportation teams, deacon and missionary groups. Connecting church members and leaders to assets in the health community, Seele insists, is key to building healthy congregations.

“People are dying because they don’t have information, prevention, disease prevention, disease management,” she said. “We have got to get serious about black health.”

Gospel artist Israel Houghton will headline the Best Practice Awards Dinner. Kafui Dzirasa MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University will give the State of the Union on Black Mental Health address. The conference’s opening preacher will be Bishop James B. Walker, presiding prelate of the Seventh Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church.

Presenters include Fatima Cody Stanford, MD, MPH, Obesity Medicine Physician Scientist, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass., Paul Abernathy, director of FOCUS Pittsburgh and Renita J. Weems of Ray Of Hope Community Church in Nashville, Tenn.


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