Loving one's neighbors is a biblical mandate that Breanna Lathrop, DNP, MPH, FNP-BC, has adopted in her nursing practice as well as in her personal life. As a family nurse practitioner and chief operating officer at Good Samaritan Health Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Lathrop has observed close up how neighborhoods are making people sick.
Lathrop advocates for nurses and others to address and implement change by realizing that social determinants of health—poverty, food access, housing, education, employment—affect everyone to some degree. Lathrop and coauthor Veronica Squires describe this in an accessible and motivating format in their book, How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick: Restoring Health and Wellness to Our Communities.
The authors first discuss the social determinants and how these can result in poor health. Then the authors address how healthcare access in the United States challenges millions of residents' wellness. “Social determinants inform us that it is not simply the very poor who suffer due to inequities in education, socioeconomic status, food access, and employment. Social determinants of health operate on a gradient, meaning that impacting social determinants benefits entire communities, from the very low income to middle class,” Squires explained.
The second half of the book offers avenues for nurses and others engaged in community care to undertake to influence social determinants so families, individuals, and neighborhoods can begin to recover and thrive.
The authors describe a biblical perspective that prompts Christians' participation in engaging in communities for the sake of all the residents' health. “As followers of Christ,” Lathrop noted, “we should be asking the question: ‘Who is my neighbor?’”
Although the concept of community transformation is daunting, “there are things each of us can do in our own spheres of influence that can impact the health of our neighbors,” Lathrop asserts. “Even if we make one change, think differently, or question assumptions about another's needs and problems, we can bring about community and system level change.” The authors outline strategies for nurses, churches, and groups to employ to move a neighborhood toward health equity.
For example, when a nurse is preparing to discharge a patient from the hospital, ask about the patient's needs. Do they ever have trouble affording enough food for their household? Are they going home to a safe living situation? Nurses can then challenge the health organization to start using screening tools that identify the social determinants impacting their patients.
“If we're open to wrestling with the questions [of people's real needs], it's more hopeful than wishing the questions would go away. As we seek God in this and meet the brokenness of the world with our own, it changes us and our everyday decisions,” Lathrop concludes.
For more reading, see Lathrop's article in this issue of JCN.
How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick: Restoring Health and Wellness to Our Communities. (2019). IVP Books.—Karen Schmidt, BA, RN, Contributing Editor
EXPANDING PUBLIC HEALTH KNOWLEDGE
The American Public Health Association (APHA) offers a spectrum of resources for nurses and other healthcare workers for professional development and growing their knowledge base. Continuing education credit (CEU) online and webinars are offered. The APHA added an option of 15 CEUs for reading Racism: Science and Tools for the Public Health Professional (APHA, 2020).
Various briefs and reports on health equity topics—housing, water, education, environmental justice—are also available, including a new report, “Creating the Healthiest Nation: Health & Housing Equity.”
Find these and other resources at https://www.apha.org/
FOOD & NUTRITION DISHES UP IDEAS
Although published primarily for registered dietitians, Food & Nutrition magazine is a useful repository of nutrition information and articles beneficial to nurses and nursing students. For example, two recent articles, “Understanding and Promoting Nutrition and Health Equity” and “Mobility's Role in Malnutrition,” include action points for healthcare professionals in institutions and communities.
Nurses who work with clients of varied ethnicities can reference many articles, recipes, and cooking information about healthy choices for global dietary preferences. A recent issue spotlighted Ghanaian eating habits and foods.
Both the Food & Nutrition website and the magazine are accessible online at https://foodandnutrition.org/
MEDICAL MISSION GUIDE FOR NURSES
Spring Arbor University shares a bounty of information for nurses considering or curious about medical mission work. From a brief history of short-term missions and personal and professional benefits of mission work to choosing a safe trip and preparing to go, this is a concise and knowledgeable resource. The option of travel nursing as a means of exploring nursing away from home is an interesting inclusion. Access the webpage here: https://online.arbor.edu/news/nurses-guide-medical-missions-trips-serving-those-need
Michael Badriaki, author of When Helping Works: Alleviating Fear and Pain in Global Missions, is the founding member and president of Global Leadership Community with years in foreign missions and international development. He is also a native Ugandan and presents perspective from both sides of the Christian mission experience.
The book seeks to critique what Badriaki views as common Western attitudes toward the approach of Christian foreign mission work; he perceives these attitudes as promoting paternalism and inciting fear in missionaries that they might be harming target people groups rather than helping. Badriaki introduces the concept of stereotypic threat early in the book and maintains it as a theme throughout the nine chapters. This threat happens when stereotypes about people infringe on relational outcomes of mission work, causing fear and anxiety which negatively affect perceptions of people groups as well as intercultural identities.
The author does contend it is laudable that missionaries desire to help. In Chapter 7, he presents a historical review illustrating impactful gains in mission work in the past. However, he proposes that the ability to help needs to be constructed based on friendship and partnership. Correcting the focus for global missions toward an ethic of love and caring will do much to promote relational solidarity.
Badriaki emphasizes the danger of stereotypic threat through narratives, personal stories that are engaging and illustrative. Because this author has experienced the pain of poverty, for example, those stories come alive. Chapter 5 focuses on the misery and destitution of poverty, and the reader is encouraged to seek understanding of this condition from people who are affected by it. In this way, fears and anxieties brought about from stereotypical conditioning can be circumvented.
Abundant Scriptural references remind the reader that a biblically grounded perspective promotes courtesy, gentleness, and mutual respect. Another element used throughout is the referencing of scholarly works; some sections read almost like a research paper. Badriaki provides definitions, historical context, and citations from books and papers that support his contentions. The final chapter delivers his suggestions for altering the traditional perspective toward Christian mission work to one that promotes healing practices and relational solidarity.
This resource presents an interesting perspective and approach toward successful, Bible-centered Christian mission efforts from one who has experience as both a missionary and a recipient of mission work. It is well referenced and clearly organized. Badriaki may overemphasize the point about the danger of the stereotype threat, and sometimes the passages with much scholarly referencing are tedious to read, but overall the stories are compelling. This book is recommended for anyone considering foreign Christian mission work.
Read firsthand accounts from Johanson regarding mission work in the Online First article, “Medical Missions: Engaging the Five Senses with Eternal Intentions,” published in conjunction with this issue of JCN. When Helping Works: Alleviating Fear and Pain in Global Mission. (2017). Wipf and Stock Publishers.
—Linda Johanson, EdD, MS, RN,is a contributing instructor in the MSN program for Walden University and lives in North Carolina.