Our mission to improve the health and well-being of the communities we serve is an integral part of why many of our team members do what they do. This is no different for David Belde, PhD, vice president of community health for Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina, who has worked for our ministry for 17 years. He proudly shares there are three core elements of our mission that have never changed: our service to others, justice and a broad understanding of health.
“Our service to others is our call and why we exist,” David says. “We show up each day for the good of others – our patients, communities and each other.”
However, the world is not equal, and David believes that as we serve others, we must also advocate for those in which justice is not always granted, such as the poor, underserved and those who live on the margins. It is our broad understanding of health – a focus on the mind, body and spirit rather than only the absence of illness – that positions us as a ministry to better serve our communities and advocate for those most in need of our care and intervention.
“We hold firm to the commitment that everyone, each and every human being, should have an equal opportunity to be healthy in the broad sense, and to experience life fully,” he adds.
In his role within our community health team, understanding the medical ailments that plague a community is only one aspect of truly improving the well-being of its members. Recognizing the other factors that affect a person’s health – such as economic status, education and housing – allows his team to treat the illness, rather than only address the symptoms.
“If we were to put a clinic on every corner of every community in which we serve, this would not necessarily drive positive physical health outcomes,” he explains. “This is precisely because these underlying social factors have a power to them that is real, complex and resistant to change if we do not understand their influence, respect their power and lack coordination or expansiveness in our response to them.”
The projects that David’s team works on are expansive in order to address the complex situation and to “push the boundaries of what we ordinarily consider to be ‘health care.’” In order to better understand what communities really need so that the community health team can make meaningful change, a key aspect is by soliciting feedback from the very people they’re trying to help.
This leads to a first-hand view of the struggles, as well as the hopes and desires, of the communities they serve. These interventions range from screenings for at-risk populations to multi-million-dollar investments in affordable housing projects. And this is all done in coordination with local leaders, corporations, philanthropists and institutions that have a stake in the community.
“The goal for us as an organization is to look broadly into the powerful dynamics that drive health outcomes and recognize that access to health is one among many realities at work,” he says. “It’s a great testament to our work when someone asks, ‘why would a health system that delivers care invest their time and money in affordable housing, early childhood education workforce development, community organizing and more?’ It then gives me the opportunity to share a personal and professional mantra: ‘We see health broadly.’”