Elder Community Health Upholders

Supporting faith-based elder health ministries in the city of Milwaukee

Full Project Name:Elder Community Health UpholdersPrimary Community Organization:American Cancer Society - Midwest DivisionPrimary Academic Partner:Jeff Morzinski, PhD, MSW, Family and Community MedicineAward Amount:$362,873
Award Date
July2008
Project Duration:42 months

Project Description Narrative:


While most senior citizens have health care coverage through Medicare, significant health disparities exist for African American older adults, who continue to have higher mortality rates and higher rates of the most common diseases including heart disease, cancer, and stroke compared to other racial groups. Standing in the way of good health for older African American individuals are several cultural and social barriers, including the historical racism of the Tuskegee Experiment, as well as lower educational attainment and education resources, limited mobility and transportation options, and more. These barriers are especially challenging in Milwaukee, home to 73% of Wisconsin's African American population who are primarily concentrated in the city's poor, urban core, which has been designated as medically underserved by the federal government.

Prior programs have established a strong foundation to reach elderly African American residents of Milwaukee through church-based outreach and programming. Through this award, project partners will build on previous efforts, establishing a program to support urban Milwaukee churches in developing elder health ministries aimed at sustaining culturally appropriate education efforts while developing the skills to effectively advocate for policies aligned with the health needs of their communities.

Community partners:
American Heart Association; Arthritis Foundation Wisconsin Chapter; Christ Presbyterian Church; Incarnation Lutheran Church; Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church; Monumental Missionary Baptist Church; Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church; Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church; St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church; Tabernacle Community Baptist Church; Victory Missionary Baptist Church; Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare-Southeast Wisconsin Inc.

Additional MCW academic partners:
Karen Krause-Framm, Family and Community Medicine; Alan Wells, PhD, Family and Community Medicine

Outcomes & Lessons Learned:


• Planned and delivered training curricula to Elder Community Health Upholder (ECHU) volunteers from nine partner churches. Training focused on chronic disease, including arthritis, heart disease, depression, cancer and diabetes, alongside education and information on community resources

• Established a pastoral leadership network, supporting a leader retreat and an Elder Health Ministry Summit to provide education on health advocacy for pastoral leaders both inside and outside of their churches. The work of the pastoral network resulted in increased funding for breast cancer research and revitalization of a county park in an area in need of safe outdoor senior activities

• Established a Community Advisory Team, holding regular meetings to promote networking and confidence-building among volunteers

• Disseminated project results and lessons learned at various meetings and events, including the Society of Teachers of Family Medicine Annual Spring Conference and Partnerships for Health: Learning, Developing and Transforming Community Engagement Conference

• Leveraged $401,700 through in funding from other sources

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