Nearly 200 church leaders and medics will gather in Birmingham, England, this week to plan new initiatives in health care. Against the backdrop of rising chronic illness in the UK, churches and Christian GPs will outline their initiatives to reverse this trend.
Conference convener, and coordinator of the Anglican Health Network, Reverend Paul Holley, said, "Whilst the UK's National Health Service delivers medical services, people's mental and physical health depends far more on their lifestyles. Poor diets, lack of exercise and relentless stress are taking their toll. More people live alone and lack the support of intimate and community relationships to promote wellbeing."
Mr Holley pointed out that churches have supported people in their various circumstances through prayer, "but now they are increasingly taking practical action to tackle these causes of poor health. The conference will make visible the wide range of activity already in play".
"For example, church halls have long played host to weight loss and exercise groups. But now they are increasingly offering drop-in centres to support those struggling with addictions and poor mental health.
"Some have even redesigned their buildings to become healthy living centres. A congregation may have a volunteer parish nurse working in its pastoral team. GPs have begun to work with their local churches to offer a listening service to patients who need some extra support.
"Church schools offer breakfast clubs and organise after-school activities to encourage sports and fitness. Churches host groups to address post-natal depression or dementia. Even the celebrated Street Pastors, out on the town on a Saturday night, are paying close attention to the health and wellbeing of those who are partying."
Mr Holley added, "Churches are far more involved in promoting health than is commonly understood. The conference will challenge policy makers and church leaders to strengthen this key part of their common mission."
The conference will take place at the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham International Airport on 24 and 25 April 2013.