A community mapping program based on information sharing could eventually help make Memphians healthier.
"We think it can make an impact on infant mortality, obesity, diabetes cardio vascular disease," said Teresa Cutt, a doctor at Methodist Hospital. "The hook for this is that it looks more at the preventive and the educational pieces that can be disseminated through the church, not traditional health care, and that's really where you're going to get the most bang for your buck in terms of helping people."
According to Cutts, community mapping is modeled after the African Religious Health Assets Program: People share information about clinics, church programs, or the neighbor down the street, who is working to fight HIV and AIDS in countries like, Zambia.
It worked in Africa, and doctors implementing the program at Methodist LeBonheur believe it can work in Memphis, too.
Reverend Sinatra Matimelo, who oversaw the mapping programs in Africa, said he knows first-hand how information can change lives.
"We're able to take information that we got from the community people and share it with health providers and government policy makers and other key people in government," he said.
Matimelo said community mapping would be helpful in Memphis.
"We have some serious third world issues here," he said. "You don't have to go to Africa to see terrible poverty."
Reverend Matimelo said health policies were changed to help people in the most need, and it all started with workshops and people sharing what they know about their own communities.
The mapping program will start in South Memphis, but Methodist plans to map the entire city over the next three years.