Engaging the strengths of people and the community in health

By Catalina Schultze-Kraft, MSN, RN, staff development manager

I recently had the honor of presenting at the 2016 Joint Meeting of the Association of Public Health Nurses (APHN) and the Association of Community Health Nurse Educators (ACHNE), held in Indianapolis. The conference, Public Health Nursing: Key to Our Nation's Health, focused on continuing the advancement of public health research and practice in the U.S.

Representatives from health departments of every state convened as well as public health nurses, public health and community health nursing educators, public health leaders, and students and partners interested in public health, health equity, population health, and other public health issues.

Being a presenter gave me the opportunity to describe a small piece of what Methodist Healthcare Ministries is doing to a larger audience. It allowed me to have conversations with people who work in various areas of public health. My presentation, "From Needs Assessment to Asset-Based Community Development: Engaging the strengths of people and the community in health," touched on Methodist Healthcare Ministries' approach to building and maintaining health throughout 74 counties in South Texas. Most striking for attendees was the large area Methodist Healthcare Ministries serves and how we are able to successfully implement initiatives such as Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) in such a large geographic area.

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) was introduced to our Wesley Nurses in 2013 as a strategy to engage the community in health. ABCD asserts that every community has assets that can be mobilized to work together to solve complex problems. It does not look at the needs of a person, family or community, but their strengths. As a result, ABCD has allowed us to create lasting partnerships. New nurses to Methodist Healthcare Ministries have a better understanding of public health nursing and faith community nursing and are better equipped to practice as a Wesley Nurse. Perceptions have also changed and people are seen as contributors to the community.

As a conference attendee, my biggest takeaway was an initiative that public health leaders have developed to help all areas look for solutions to health problems. The "Triple Aim for Health Equity" focuses on:

  1. Expanding the understanding of what creates health. This means making sure that Social Determinants of Health (the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age) are addressed when talking about health.
  2. Taking a "health in all policies" approach. Health equity is the goal. Health doesn't only mean access to health care, but also encompasses where we live, learn, work and play.
  3. Strengthening community capacity. Involving communities in health care can foster connectedness and trust, improve assessment efforts, and build a capacity of individuals to positively affect their community's future.

This year, I wanted to explore other nursing areas, in addition to faith community nursing, that align with Methodist Healthcare Ministries' mission. I wanted to explore where we rank in comparison to other programs that academia, governmental organizations, and not-for-profits are managing. This conference confirmed to me that our nursing team, and our organization overall, is headed in the right direction. We have a unique model that allows us to accomplish things other health departments are unable to do and improve the physical, mental and spiritual health of the least-served in South Texas.

Catalina Schultze-Kraft, MSN, RN, is a staff development manager for the Wesley Nurse program at Methodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas, Inc. Methodist Healthcare Ministries' Wesley Nurse program is a faith-based, holistic health and wellness program committed to serving the least-served through education, health promotion and collaboration with individuals and communities to achieve improved wellness through self-empowerment. Learn more at www.mhm.org/programs/health-ministries