Begun in the Fall of 2011, the Lay Health Educator Program (LHEP) is designed to create lay health educators to serve in their local community, while allowing physicians to teach the community members current health concerns and issues. The LHEP was introduced first to the internal medicine residents at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, an urban academic medical center. The LHEP is conducted over a 12-week course between September and November. Congregations are recruited from the Healthy Community Partnership (HCP), a medical–religious partnership between Johns Hopkins Bayview and local faith communities. Geographically, the congregations are located in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. metropolitan area.
The mission of the LHEP is to improve community participants’ awareness and understanding of specific common medical conditions (e.g., diabetes mellitus) and healthcare concerns (e.g., advanced directives). Community members are given basic information on these topics and taught how to access additional up-to-date health information from reliable, vetted sources for navigating medical conditions and concerns. Upon completion of the training program, participants receive certificates identifying them as Lay Health Educators and coordinate health-related events for their congregations (e.g., health fairs, “Ask a Doctor” sessions, vaccination drives) in accordance with the health needs and interests of their respective religious communities. Leaders of each congregation were in full support of their congregation members’ participation in the LHEP and agreed to support subsequent efforts by the LHEP participant to promote health in the congregation.