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IHP History & Milestones

The Interfaith Health Program was established in 1992 to foster partnerships between Public Health and Faith Communities to create new and innovative programs that address the dynamic public health challenges facing our communities today in the nation and around the world.

William Foege, former Director of the Centers for Disease Control and a Fellow for Health Policy at The Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, worked to identify the barriers to the health and wellness of communities and the resources that could be utilized to conquer these barriers.  Foege recognized that religious institutions represented one of the most pervasive and powerful resources in almost all communities; however, public health professionals, scholars, and faith communities had done little to forge collaborative relationships with each other even though each offered unique perspectives and skill sets crucial to improving communities’ health and wellness. In an effort to close the gap of glaring health disparities among different communities, Foege worked to bring the resources of religious institutions to the table to work with public health practitioners.  Grounded in that vision, the IHP was created to mobilize these groups and have them work in concert toward a common goal with a transdisciplinary approach.

From the first days at The Carter Center in 1992 to our present-day home at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, IHP has fostered partnerships between public health and faith communities and mobilized resources for the health of communities in the United States and around the world. Since its inception, beginning with Foege’s vision of “Closing the Gap,” IHP has worked to build collaborative networks aimed at eliminating health disparities. Key milestone events and initiatives that represent the history and unique capacity of IHP include:

For the first decade of its existence, IHP was funded through a substantial gift from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, with additional support from the Templeton Foundation, the Georgia Department of Public Health, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.  Our work during this time was substantial, including:

During this time, IHP also began to establish partnerships with scholars in Public Health, the Social Sciences, Theology, and Religious Studies that helped pave the way for the exciting work we are doing today.  One of the partnerships forged led to the founding of the African Religious Health Assets Project (ARHAP) and expanded IHP’s reach and impact internationally.

Global partnerships with university colleagues in South Africa generated ground-breaking research that delved into the role that religion plays in the health and wellness of communities and the inherent, but often overlooked, resources available in these communities.

In 2005, Emory University began a process to develop a strategic vision for its next ten years, resulting in the formation of another interdisciplinary partnership that recognized Emory’s distinctive history of scholarship in religious studies and public health.  As a result, Emory invested in furthering that work by establishing a key strategic initiative, the Religion and Public Health Collaborative (RPHC). IHP’s work is closely integrated with the work of the RPHC, but also extends beyond it with a number of external partners and community-based initiatives across the U.S. and globally.

By 2005 the role and capacity of IHP had developed to become an enduring and valuable partner alongside public health. Through a cooperative agreement with the CDC, the National Center for Public Health and Faith Collaborations was created to serve as a hub for strengthening the partnership among the CDC, Faith-Based Organizations, state and local governments, and other key national and international organizations so that they can align their unique assets to build capacity and advance knowledge to promote and protect the public’s health.

Building collaborative relationships was the cornerstone of IHP’s development and continues to be a key element of our foundation today.  Read about IHP’s current projects.