TB Challenge: Partnering to Eliminate TB
in African Americans
In the Name of TB: A Faith-Based Approach to Raising
Awareness in an African-American Community
Michael Fraser, Public Health Advisor, Field Services
and Evaluation Branch
Michael Fraser (MF): Pastor Elligan, how long
have you been the pastor of the True Light Baptist Church in Atlanta?
Pastor Darrell Elligan (DE): I have been the pastor
for approximately twelve years. I have also served as the president
of the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta for the past
MF: That's great. What is the mission of the Concerned
Black Clergy as it relates to tuberculosis (TB)?
DE: Our mission is centered on being proactive.
In our work with the homeless community, we try to make an immediate
impact about TB. We seek to be a venue for workshops and the dissemination
of information regarding health disparities. Also, we work to bring
about collaboration among churches so that the proper information
can be received and the community can be informed.
MF: What about other health issues that impact
DE: Absolutely. We work with all health issues
because there is a major disparity among African Americans; addressing
health disparities is at the top of the list. We are also working
to raise awareness about other diseases, such as cardiovascular
MF: You are exactly right. In your opinion, is
there a commitment in the faith community to reducing health disparities,
particularly TB health disparities?
DE: I think there will be a commitment as we bring
out the knowledge and information regarding the disparity. We will
make the layers of the faith-based community aware that TB is certainly
a problem. There are other issues on the agenda as well, but I think
there is a commitment to addressing anything that impacts our community
in terms of health disparities. I can truly say that the commitment
is there to prevent disease and to resolve any misconception in
MF: Pastor Elligan, it looks like the Concerned
Black Clergy isn't leaving anything to chance.
DE: No, no.
MF: It seems that you have a mission and are focused.
DE: Yes. I think that many times we are responding
to crises. What we are seeking to do is, across the board, be more
proactive in the prevention of major health disparities, such as
HIV, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other diseases that impact
the African-American community.
MF: I know that you are a member of the state
of Georgia Controlling and Eliminating TB in the African-American
Community (CETBA) Advisory Council. What is your role on the council,
and how have you been able to make an impact on TB in the African-American
DE: Well, I hope that I have made a difference.
My primary responsibility is to create a relationship with churches
in order to disseminate information about TB specifically. Some
of the black churches here may not be as conscious of TB, so what
I have sought to do is open doors into some Atlanta churches so
that CETBA may get doors into some Atlanta churches so that CETBA
may get buy-in and full cooperation and involvement from the leadership
in these churches. Also, CETBA has worked with the coordinator for
health ministry in these various churches. This is critical in order
for the information to reach members of these congregations. My
role with CETBA has been to open doors to Atlanta's faith-based
community so that information is ultimately disseminated to the
members of these congregations.
MF: You have answered my next question. Have you
been able to advance CETBA's mission to other non-church, faith-based
organizations? If so, how successful have the efforts been?
DE: You are absolutely right. We are an inter-faith
organization. We have so many of our sister organizations that are
not necessarily churches, but are still faith based. So our whole
approach to serving our community is holistic and that is what impacts
our body, soul, and spirit. Some of our sister organizations, such
as The People's Agenda, have come on board and opened their doors
to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People
(NAACP) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)
and other non-church, faith-based organizations in an effort to
raise awareness in the African-American community about TB.
MF: Since you are the pastor of True Light Baptist
Church, which is located in an African-American community where
there is a high incidence of TB, what are you doing in this community
to raise awareness about TB?
DE: We are doing quite a bit. We have a holistic
approach to managing health disparities. We have a health ministry
where we seek to train the trainer. We have individuals who are
trained in taking blood pressure and other things of that nature.
On some Sundays, health providers are conducting various health
screenings. In addition, every first Sunday of the month, we allow
someone from the health care profession to come into our morning
worship service to share information abut a specific health topic,
which has included TB.
MF: That is wonderful.
DE: It actually happens during the worship service.
We also distribute a monthly newsletter to our congregation that
includes health information; this is also a way to get health messages
out to our community. With the train-the-trainer concept, we work
to get our young people involved; we hope by their involvement with
the church, they may develop an interest in working in the health
care field someday. True Light Baptist Church also has an exercise
program; in addition, we also conduct health-related fairs and workshops.
We also plan for other events that will reach and serve our community.
MF: That is an excellent way to reach the community
— having them involved.
DE: The key component to getting your church involved
relies a great deal on the leadership in the church. If the leadership
does not buy in, then it is quite difficult to get the congregations'
cooperation and participation. I believe that one does not have
to experience a health issue personally to realize how drastically
it impacts on our community. I sought to be out front—leading
the way and not just responding. It was very necessary for me to
be proactive, not reactive.
MF: Pastor Elligan, in your discussions with other
clergy in the Atlanta area, what have been other barriers that have
negatively impacted reaching African-American communities?
DE: I think the primary thing is just communication
and information shared between the clergy and the community. The
clergy becomes involved in terms of community work, while the community
is involved in terms of understanding the role of the church in
the community. I think the most powerful institution in our community
is the church. In saying that, I believe the primary concern is
to understand that team work will ultimately lead us to accomplish
our goal of serving the community and meeting the needs of our communities.
This has not always occurred through collaborations. The greatest
need involves using the team approach, communication, and the whole
concept of effective partnerships. We have to realize that the need
of the individual in our community is better served when we work
together; this, and only this, can move the barriers. I would like
to add that we are doing better and are much farther ahead now than
we have been before. We still have quite a bit of work to do.
MF: The work involves everyone.
DE: Yes, a minister primarily deals with the spiritual life of a
person and many who are trained in psychology deal with the behavioral
characteristics of an individual or group. I think that the clergy
have to be mature and secure enough to admit that we do not have
all of the answers. We need to work with others who have the expertise
we lack and partner with those whom God has placed.
MF: Would you like to add anything before we close,
DE: Yes, I believe that the church should take
on a holistic approach when working with individuals and communities,
since I totally believe that people can have a better life if they
are physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. I believe that
spirituality is the basis of our health; it just starts here.