Arkansas Faith Network Uses Partnerships to Address Health Shortcomings

By Kev' Moye

The FAITH Network is a platform of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health Department of Health Behavior and Health Education. Keneshia Bryant-Moore, Ph.D., APRN, a professor in the department, led the establishment of the network in 2016.

“Arkansas, being a rural state, has health access issues in regard to not only resources but also knowledge in relation to different health trends,” she said. “We want to address the process of getting information to all people.

“Therefore, we always engage the community,” Bryant-Moore added. “We can’t afford to guess what their needs are. The FAITH network must know what the community’s needs are.”

The network is not UAMS’ initial partnership with Arkansas’ faith-based community.

Previously, UAMS had faculty members who successfully partnered with faith-based entities for different programs and research. Considering how Arkansas is in the Bible Belt where ministry leaders have lots of influence and are well-connected, Bryant-Moore recognized that it made sense to create a grant-funded program that partners with the faith-based community to help improve the state’s health status.

“I established the FAITH Network to give UAMS researchers an opportunity to build a larger coalition of faith leaders,” she said. “I noticed that UAMS was originally relying on a small group of faith leaders for various projects. We needed to build our capacity and provide an opportunity to have more faith leaders engage with us.

“At the same time, the UAMS Northwest campus began to engage with the Marshallese community’s faith leaders,” she added. “Ultimately, I applied for a grant and received funding to start a network [from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)], which develops trainings for faith leaders and helps them understand what research is, what health disparities are, and what role they can play to address the situation.”

Upon its launch, the program was well received.

But the arrival of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 highlighted the immense value of the network. The dangers of the virus combined with word spreading about the network’s efforts to keep Arkansans safe, led to an increase in involvement. Ministry leaders saw first-hand what public health was and how it impacts all people.

“During that time, we took the opportunity to educate people about COVID-19 and also the FAITH Network,” Bryant-Moore said. “We offered COVID-19 trainings to faith leaders. We worked with them to develop COVID-19 toolkits for places of worship.”

One of the beneficiaries of the network’s COVID-19 awareness campaign was Tabernacle Baptist Church, located in Dermott. Ricky Lattimore, pastor of the church and a FAITH Network ambassador, was grateful for the leadership. He said the network’s guidance kept lots of people in southeast Arkansas safe from the virus.

“During the peak of COVID-19, the network was a great resource,” he said. “The FAITH Network really came in handy in getting correct info to the Dermott community. We received not only great information but supplies to help residents handle the situation.

“We’re isolated in a rural area, and we don’t have access to a lot of resources. By partnering with the FAITH Network, we know we have a quality, well-resourced entity to call upon.”

Gregory C. Nettles, pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Camden, raved over how the network provides preventative health information, health supplies and opportunities to attend health conferences.

“Partnering with the FAITH Network, there are unlimited possibilities for learning, improving the lives of congregates, having access to research — and it’s all free,” he said. “I appreciate how the health education aspect of it aims to improve the lives of Arkansans.

“Every person should have access to the same health opportunities as everyone else.”

Fred Harris, pastor of Life Abundant Ministries City of Life Church in North Little Rock and host of The Morning Brew on Rejoice 103.3 FM Little Rock, is heavily involved with the state’s faith community. Harris said that people are taking notice of how the network comes to the aid of Arkansans — especially those who live in underserved areas.

“It’s been a major, important relationship for our church,” Harris said. “We’re able to serve more and do more for our community because we’re partnering with the FAITH Network.”

Helping people address their health, leads to a larger pool of residents being able to make a positive impact in their community, Harris added.

“Every person should have access to resources that help them live a healthy life,” he said. “Often, it’s not what you know it’s who you know. When you know the right individuals, those connections can result in getting the help that you need.

“When people are healthy, they are able to produce more, and they’re more focused on their spiritual growth. That’s why we love the FAITH Network and the work it’s doing. Through the network I’ve pointed lots of people to different sources of health information. Our church partnering with health care professionals is a major benefit. We need healthy families.”

Bryant-Moore also appears weekly on Harris’ radio show. Additionally, she produces a FAITH Network e-newsletter, Lunch-N-Learns and a podcast, which she co-hosts with Harris.

“The podcast helps to reach a younger demographic,” she said. “It helps to expose a bigger audience to the research, work and programs offered by UAMS.”

“People are truly connecting with and learning from the podcast,” Harris added. “Also, through the podcast you can genuinely hear how Dr. Bryant-Moore views the FAITH Network not as part of her job, but as a mission her heart is in. I love it a lot.”

Nettles said he appreciates how the FAITH Network presents health info that can save and change lives. In fact, due to network members having access to health research, health supplies and health info, he recruits other ministry leaders in south Arkansas to join the initiative.

“The access to the health information, taking part in the health research and educational offerings provided by the FAITH Network have been a benefit to our church,” Nettles said. “In the southern part of Arkansas, too often we seem to get overlooked regarding programs designed for the entire state. Through my affiliation with the network, everyone I’m connected to, I give them the health information I know about that I’ve learned due to being with the program.”

Currently the network is experiencing a boom, Nettles said, and the info, items and programs it provides along with Bryant-Moore’s compassion are among the main reasons why.

“The leadership of Dr. Bryant-Moore is impressive,” he said. “She’s caring and has surrounded herself with people capable of helping to grow her vision.”

Lattimore also referenced the kindness of Bryant-Moore — and her team — and how it factors into the growth of the network.

“When you’re around her, you really see how her heart is in what she’s doing,” he said. “I admire her compassion and love for helping ministries throughout the state address the health of the entire man — mind, body, soul.

“I would strongly suggest that a ministry partner with the FAITH Network. It can help a congregation treat the whole being.”

When asked about the impact and growth of the network, Bryant-Moore said it’s a matter of respecting Arkansas’ culture and meeting people where they’re most comfortable.

“People typically respect ministry leaders,” Bryant-Moore said. “Regarding health care, a person may see a physician once, maybe twice a year. However, in the south, most people are in church every week. Or at least once a month. Being able to present pertinent information to people, due to partnering with ministries statewide, is a beneficial situation for everyone.”

For more information about the network, visit .