Since its founding 85 years ago, Edmundite Missions has been committed to the health and wellbeing of the Selma community and the surrounding rural areas. Some of the first major milestones for the Missions were the opening of Holy Infant Inn, a nursing home for African-Americans, and Good Samaritan Hospital, the first hospital for African-Americans in the Black Belt that served marchers like the late Congressman John Lewis on Bloody Sunday during the Voting Rights Movement.
The cornerstone of the Missions is nutrition and that will always continue. Nutritional deficits are at the base of many of the chronic disease challenges in our community, and chronic disease is the dominant cause of the high rates of early death and disability, rates that are among the highest in the nation. These two trends, in turn, erode the productivity of the local economy which prevents solutions to the dominant poverty problem.
The Missions approaches bettering the health outcomes of the communities we serve in two ways:
- Program Initiatives
- Partnerships with Providers
- Nutrition is the cornerstone of the Missions and better health outcomes.
- Our Bosco Nutrition Center serves 1,300 meals every single day of the year to those in poverty in the Black Belt. We work with a registered dietician to improve our offerings and reduce negative health impacts. For example, we banned fried chips, white bread, and high sugar cereals. We also restructured recipes and menus to reduce salt and fat and increase grains and protein.
- A core principal of the Missions is that we put the dignity of our clients above all. Initiatives like our “Ban the Bag” initiative which transformed our food pantry in Lowndes County into the Good Shepherd Food Mart which allows clients to choose their own food, including a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, increased the dignity of our service and improved the nutritional value of the food our clients receive.
- The key to nutrition education in the communities we serve is engagement. We include a “Culinary Kidz” module in each summer camp to provide hands on experience with healthy cooking and eating. Our Blessing of the Saints program partners with the Selma High School Athletics Department to prevent their student-athletes with nutrition assistance and education. The Blessing program also creates nutrition ambassadors among these young people who take what they’ve learned about nutrition to younger students. For adults and seniors, we provide nutrition education through tasting tables and cooking demonstrations along with 6-week nutrition courses for our seniors.
- Focusing on providing better access to fresh fruit and vegetables not only improves health outcomes, it also provides an opportunity for the Missions to further its economic impact in impoverished areas.
- Our Black Farmers Initiative works to procure all our fruits and vegetables from local, Black-owned farmers. This drives resources into our communities. Several farmers in the program have gone from one man operations to requiring staff members to meet the demand. In order to help these small farms scale their production to meet our level of need, we offer impact grants for implements like coolers which the farmers couldn’t afford to invest in on their own.
- The Missions knows the best way to improve health outcomes is to encourage the healthy behaviors that prevent the need for medical intervention.
- The Dr. Michael and Catherine Bullock Community and Recreation Center, a 4.1-million-dollar state of the art facility in the heart of downtown Selma, was built on the dual purposes of wellness and community-building. Programs like Silver Sneakers for seniors, basketball, soccer, tennis, fitness room, Zumba, and dance classes allow our clients to take the Missions messaging about healthy living and put in into action through our programs.
- The COVID-19 pandemic presented a public health crisis across the globe and even more acutely in our communities which were already experiencing poor health outcomes. The Missions strongly pursued prevention and vaccination efforts internally and externally, holding information sessions, vaccinations clinics, and conducting an advertising campaign aimed at dispelling misinformation and encouraging vaccination.
- Missions Community Centers are important hubs for health services and information in the communities we serve. We often hold health and wellness fairs at our centers where our clients can learn from experts and take part in healthy cooking demonstrations and healthy living activities.
- Diabetes effects nearly one-third of the clients served by the Missions. Improper management of their diabetes too often removes our clients from the work force and leads to premature death. Two Missions staff members are certified diabetes educators and offer 6-week diabetes education programs throughout the Missions.
- The Missions Catholic Social Ministries Office receives an average of 45 clients per day who experiencing some form of crisis. Often these challenges have a root in a medical issue. We use case management as an opportunity to identify health issues of our clients and refer to clinics on our campus. We also provide financial assistance for prescription acquisition and doctors’ visits.
- While the Missions has always understood the importance of healthcare in providing transformative service to the communities we serve, we are not and do not wish to be a health care provider. We believe partnerships with providers are a more cost efficient and higher quality strategy. On our campus, clients can access two of our partners who are healthcare providers.
- Health Link provides advocacy and prescription assistance for those who are impoverished and uninsured. The program provides 100% free prescriptions in many cases, including free testing and management supplies for diabetes, medicines for the management of blood pressures, and many other critical needs in the communities we serve. While there are often long wait times for clients to begin receiving assistance through some programs Health Link can access, our partnership is truly holistic with the Missions Catholic Social Ministries Office providing prescription assistance for the immediate period before the long-term prescription assistance kicks in.
- Doc-on-the-Spot provides medical clinics for the impoverished and uninsured through a partnership with the University of Alabama-Birmingham Medical School. The Missions recently renovated one half of our Center of Hope in Selma to serve as a state of the art medical clinic complete with its own lab! With the new facilities, Doc-on-the-Spot increased their clinic frequency from monthly to weekly, increasing access for our clients.
- As an organization with 85 years of service in our communities, the Missions has earned the trust of those we serve. We’ve built our campuses to intentionally be within walking distance for those we serve. Due to the heavy traffic our facilities receive, we often invite other providers to come and provide education or assistance, including: COVID-19 and Flu vaccinations with the Department of Public Health, HIV/AIDS information with Selma Air, workshops and presentations by providers on issues of like aging and diabetes, and health fairs in conjunction with Vaughan Regional Medical Center.
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