Pastors’ Wives on Mission to Bring Medical Tests, Including STD Testing to Black Women and Men in Churches


Tracey Alston

By Staff Blogger

Many husband and wife teams lead the churches today. While the husband is usually the pastor of the congregation and he leads them to salvation through Christ, his wife often looks to the more worldly needs of their parishioners.

The pastor’s wife, or first lady as she is sometimes referred to, usually takes on the responsibility of improving the congregations well-being and organizes functions where they can get together outside of the church.

The idea for the First Ladies Health Initiative group came from Tracey Alston, whose grandmother was one such first lady, when she sat down with representatives from the Chicago Department of Public Health, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and the Walgreen Co.

Because of the growing concern about health problems within the African-American community, the organizations got together with the churches around Chicago to devise a plan to improve health care.

Walgreen Co.’s outreach to the black community is handled by the Danielle Ashley Group, where Alston is president, and her job was to help think up a plan of action for the First Ladies Health Initiative.

“It started with us trying to find a way to get HIV-testing into more churches,” said Alston. “We know that women get things done so I said, ‘What about the first ladies?'”

The First Ladies Health Initiative has now been working together for five years and every September they organize a health day which includes about 40 churches from around Chicago.

The First Ladies Health Initiative has screened thousands of people for diseases including, diabetes, breast cancer, HIV and even mental illness.

The First Ladies Health Day will be held this year on September 22nd in Chicago. It is always held on a Sunday, either during or after regular worship services.

The organization holds a luncheon every June with the aim of bringing churches into the organization and encouraging them to carry on their good work. The Ritz Carlton Hotel will be the venue of this year’s luncheon and Sherri Shepherd from the daytime television show “The View,” will be one of the guests.

Director of correctional health and community affairs at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, the Rev. Doris Green said that at first she couldn’t see the point of holding an annual luncheon.

However, Green continued to say that after seeing the women eating together, embracing each other and encouraging each other to carry on their good works, then she understood the importance of the luncheon.

Green went on to say that the luncheon was a prelude to their annual meeting in September and they could begin planning their meeting at the luncheon.

According to reports, during the Health fair, at last September’s meeting, more than 5,000 people were screened for diabetes, about 2,000 for high blood pressure, 300 for high cholesterol, 870 for HIV and 600 for hepatitis C.

They also gave out vouchers for women to get mammograms and bode-density tests and CPR training sessions were held at some churches.



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