In central Massachusetts a large urban parish asked the University of Massachusetts, Amherst School of Nursing to conduct a community assessment for the church and newly employed parish nurse. The aims of the assessment were: to determine the health status of parishioners, identify their perceived health needs and perceived barriers in meeting those needs, and to assist the church and parish nurse in developing a health program for their faith community.
Findings of the assessment are based on questionnaire and focus group data. Four hundred and twenty-one questionnaires were completed, and six focus groups were held to validate the data. Results showed most parishioners felt they were in good health (93%), believed faith and spiritual beliefs were important in maintaining health and well-being (91%), and thought that the church should play a role in helping parishioners meet their health needs (70%). In addition, focus group discussions revealed a need for respite care for primary caretakers of the ill and elderly, and health education programs for their teen and elderly populations. In conclusion, parishioners were positive and articulated support of the parish nurse and activities designed to address the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of their community.