“God Brought All These Churches Together”: Issues in Developing Religion-Health Partnerships in an Appalachian Community


  • Mary Rado Simpson M.S., R.N.,

  • Marilyn Givens King D.N.Sc., R.N.,

  • Mary Rado Simpson is a Doctoral Candidate at the College of Nursing and Marilyn Givens King is an Associate Professor at the College of Nursing and the Center for Rural Health at the University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky.

Address correspondence to Mary Rado Simpson, 525 Narrows Branch Road, Hardy, KY 41531. E-mail: gsimpson@sols.net


This study explored health-related and organizational religious activities in an Appalachian community and identified cultural issues in the development of religion-health partnerships. Partnerships between religious groups and health providers are a channel for health promotion efforts to vulnerable populations and must be approached from the culture of the community. An ethnographic, exploratory study of health-related and organizational activities in nonmainline religious groups yielded the use of prayer requests, anointing, testimonial, and denominational links as potential health resources. Organizational decisions were by congregational consensus and theological interpretation. The communal setting of worship as an informal resource to a community of believers, especially the vulnerable, was a viable model for religion-health partnerships in central Appalachia. Implications for nursing practice, education, and research also are addressed.