By Jessica Brodie
TAYLORS—What happens when a church and a hospital decide they need to create awareness about critical ongoing health issues claiming countless in their community?
They create a powerful new video series together that is designed to advance conversations around health equity.
The communications team of St. Mark United Methodist Church, in conjunction with the South Carolina Hospital Association Foundation, have partnered in a three-part video series, A Series of Hope, to increase awareness about health issues in communities of color. The series focuses on heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke, which have been identified as the leading causes of death for Black Americans.
“While we know there are disparities in healthcare, we must take some responsibility for contributing to those disparities. In general, we simply do not openly and honestly share our family health history,” said Rosylin Weston, St. Mark’s church council chair and president of RAWeston Communications who is herself an active health advocate currently living with cancer. “These unspoken conversations are a contributing factor in our overall declining health.”
Weston said she and the rest of the production team hope the series can be used in discussions with local churches, schools, health clinics, and other community organizations, helping people understand resources and other tools available to them and creating an accepting environment where open conversations can be held about these health issues.
They have also developed a study guide for use with the videos.
The first video, on cancer, is available now. Production on the second video, about diabetes, is going on now, and the third video will focus on stroke and heart disease.
“The intent of the series is to provide information and encourage families to have real conversations about real healthcare-related issues,” Weston said.
As the question is posed in the video: Does the Black community talk about health enough?
St. Mark’s pastor, the Rev. Charles L. White Jr., said the project was entirely led by the church laity and provides an opportunity to make an impact not only on the church but also the community as a whole.
“These diseases are sometimes silent killers in our community because we’re afraid to have these open discussions,” White said.
The videos enable St. Mark to be advocates for healthcare, educating people about diseases and creating awareness about treatment plans and affordable healthcare.
As the cancer video shares, when it comes to most cancers, Black people have the highest death rate and shortest survival period of any racial group in the United States. Prostate cancer is the most diagnosed cancer among Black men, while breast cancer is the most diagnosed cancer among Black women. Cancers of the lung and colon are also common.
The video shares the cancer experiences of a number of people within their congregation. For instance, Sheila Bradley, now 22 years cancer-free, underwent both surgery and chemotherapy after she was diagnosed with rare small bowel cancer. Her faith testimony is woven into her cancer story.
Solomon Bradley, also now cancer-free, shares his battle with prostate cancer, which required him to take an active role in his care and treatment.
Eugene Smith was diagnosed with colon cancer from a routine coloscopy. Luckily, his was detected early, and he is able to keep it at bay with healthy eating and regular exercise.
Weston also shares in the video her own battle with breast cancer, enduring two surgeries, eight rounds of chemotherapy and 33 rounds of radiation. While she was declared cancer-free, the cancer returned, now metastatic—and terminal.
St. Mark is sharing the video on their website, http://stmarktaylorssc.com/a-series-of-hope-part-one-cancer, as well as on Facebook. The diabetes and the stroke/heart disease videos will also be displayed there when they are complete.