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CHRIS Program Launches Statewide to Combat Minority Health Disparities

Feb. 23, 2006

OAK RIDGE, Tenn.—African Americans are 20% more likely to die from heart disease and twice as likely to be diagnosed with diabetes as non-Hispanic, white adults. These are just a few of the health disparities—diseases, disorders and conditions—facing today’s minority population, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE), along with churches and other faith-based organizations, are working to reduce or eliminate this societal trend through information dissemination and health education.

On Monday, Feb. 27, ORISE will launch its Consumer Health Resource Information Service (CHRIS) program statewide and will add an additional 10 churches to its program for a total of 21 houses of worship participating in the curriculum (see attachment).

To commemorate the CHRIS launch, Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., a college existing to improve the health and health care of minority and underserved communities by offering excellent education and training programs in the health sciences, will serve as program host for the event.

Since 2003, CHRIS, a faith-based initiative funded by the National Library of Medicine (NLM) and administered by ORISE, has been specific only to Knoxville, Tenn., and its surrounding counties. The CHRIS program provides health education and screenings to predominantly African-American, inner-city congregations. Each church is equipped with a computer workstation and parish nurses trained to access medical information on the Internet.

“The beauty of the CHRIS program is that it’s tailored to provide information that addresses a wide array of health issues within a faith entity,” said Martha (Marti) R. Szczur, associate deputy director of NLM’s Specialized Information Services Division. “Good, reliable health information goes a long way towards the prevention of many health problems, and the National Library of Medicine’s consumer health databases are trusted sources.”

Several state and federal dignitaries will be on hand for the event, including Senator Thelma M. Harper (D-TN); Commissioner Kenneth S. Robinson, MD, from the Tennessee Department of Health; and Szczur.

“Both ORISE and NLM are excited about the new churches coming on board with the CHRIS Program,” said Rose Marie Womble, CHRIS program manager. “It is our ultimate goal to replicate CHRIS across the nation.”

ORISE, along with NLM, is currently developing a CHRIS program guide and tool kit that will assist churches and other places of worship, not only in Tennessee but throughout the United States, in establishing similar CHRIS programs within their own communities.

ORAU provides innovative scientific and technical solutions to advance national priorities in science, education, security and health. Through specialized teams of experts, unique laboratory capabilities and access to a consortium of more than 100 major Ph.D.-granting institutions, ORAU works with federal, state, local and commercial customers to advance national priorities and serve the public interest. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation and federal contractor, ORAU manages the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

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