“Meeting People Where They Are”: Takeaways from the 2022 Faith & Diabetes Summit

December 1, 2022

Since Cities Changing Diabetes – Philadelphia launched in 2019, faith and lay leaders have been recognized as key stakeholders to engage in diabetes and obesity management. Based on a model successfully implemented in Houston, Faith & Diabetes empowers communities of faith to better understand and address diabetes awareness, prevention, and management with special attention to religious belief, practice, and community life. Faith & Diabetes – Philadelphia is led by Health Care Improvement Foundation, and engages local experts, faith leaders, and faith communities to identify and address the unique opportunities and challenges for houses of faith in this region to meet the health needs of their communities.

On November 15, Faith & Diabetes Collaborative members and other partners came together in observance of American Diabetes Month and World Diabetes Day for the Faith & Diabetes Summit. This year’s event celebrated the many accomplishments of the Faith & Diabetes Collaborative in 2022. Featured sessions included an inspirational keynote from Dr. Annette Gadegbeku, Associate Professor of Family Medicine and Assistant Dean of Community Health at Drexel University College of Medicine, and Servant Leader/iGroup Leader at Dare to Imagine Church, presentations from house of faith partners showcasing diabetes and obesity programming, and exploration of partnerships to strengthen collaborative efforts in 2023.

In her keynote, Dr. Gadegbeku emphasized the unique strengths of houses of faith in identifying, assessing, and addressing the health and spiritual needs of community members. “It is so important to acknowledge the intersection of faith and health, and that houses of faith have such a unique, important, and empowering position to meet people where they are,” said Dr. Gadegbeku. “I love meeting people where they are, and frankly, I am tired of us waiting for people to go to the doctor, go to the hospital. It’s time for us to really start providing care services, support, and resources where people feel most comfortable, where people come on a regular basis, and that’s in your houses of faith.” Faith and lay leaders reinforced Dr. Gadegbeku’s message while showcasing their passion and aptitudes for promoting healthy lifestyle changes within their communities. Programs delivered by houses of faith educated participants about identifying underlying risk and risk factors for diabetes, making healthier food choices, increasing physical activity, and building social support.

“It’s time for us to really start providing care services, support, and resources where people feel most comfortable, where people come on a a regular basis, and that’s in your houses of faith.”

-DR. GADEGBEKU

Apu Patel, Director, Corporate Sustainability and Social Impact at Novo Nordisk, closed the Summit by highlighting the relationship between diabetes and holistic health: “We are called Cities Changing Diabetes, but diabetes does not live in a vacuum of our own health concerns. It’s there with weight gain, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other things. The way this kind of work thrives is when you think about diabetes and diet-related diseases being part of that whole health.”

Philadelphia’s Faith & Diabetes Collaborative will continue their work addressing the whole health needs of their congregations and communities through 2024, with ongoing grant funding from Novo Nordisk.

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