Matt Schorr
May 13, 2019

NASHVILLE, Tenn. In 2018, nearly 50 Latino leaders from at least 20 local faith groups gathered at the Coleman Park Community Center to gain insight on health needs in their communities. The event – organized by the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance (MVA) and the Faith and Health Collaborative – was called Breakfast with Religious Leaders, and its goal was to establish what organizers called a “culture of wellness.”

On Saturday, April 13, 2019, those leaders gathered once again to continue that mission.


Adverse Childhood Experiences

Youth, mental health, health insurance, health education and general well-being were all concerns raised at the gathering of Latino Pastors in 2018.  “Resources supporting the development of strong families, particularly those that support youth seemed most desired,” MVA Program Manager Jacquelyn S. Favours, MPH, reported.

The MVA team engaged Latino Faith Leaders and other stakeholders with strong initiatives already in Nashville  to guide the focus of the 2019 event. “Our planning team decided to address these concerns by first discussing the topic of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with Latino Faith Leaders, acknowledging what ACEs means and how it effects the well-being of families,” Favours explained.

With that in mind, Favours and other event organizers – Claudia Barajas (Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center), Isamary Cantero (MVA Consultant), Elisa Friedman (MVA) and Raven Alade (MVA Intern) – focused on ACEs, specifically "Building Strong Families."


Building Strong Families

During a panel discussion, representatives from local health groups described their own experiences combating ACEs and exactly what the phenomenon meant to them.

Tonya Elkins, MSSW, from the Vanderbilt Children’s Maternal Fetal Center and Maternal Infant Health Outreach Worker (MIHOW) program, discussed ways to both address and prevent ACEs.

Porter Jennings, LCSW from ACE Nashville and Anais Riggs, MSPA from Catholic Charities Family and Support Services added their own insights.


Building Strong Brains

Everyone gathered at the event viewed a clip from “Building Strong Brains - The Tennessee Story,” a six-episode documentary developed by WCTE Public Television as part of the Building Strong Brains Tennessee Public Awareness Campaign.

The documentary addresses key concepts about the incidence, prevention and mitigation of ACEs.

“Everyone is touched by ACEs,” the documentary states. “ACEs affect the lives of people of all ethnic groups and economic backgrounds.”


Small group discussions

In subsequent small group discussions, many described ways they saw ACEs present in the community. They agreed it was important to get information out to more groups and congregations.

Their biggest concerns included the following:

  • More mental health resources needed
  • Being uninsured
  • Awareness of existing resources
  • Financial obstacles

To combat those concerns, they suggested:

  • Organized health ministries
  • Education
  • Youth activities
  • Training

Following this event, the organizers plan to connect with individual faith leaders to organize related discussions focused on issues of concern raised by attendees with their respective congregations.


About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance

Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.