Bioethics Blogs

New Program Will Bring Advance Care Planning to African-American Faith Communities

Richard Payne, MD

Participating Congregations in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Philadelphia and West Palm Beach 

African Americans die at excessive levels from chronic disease1 yet use only eight percent of hospice services nationally.2 Advance care planning – the process of communicating with a healthcare agent about the care they would want if unable to speak for themselves – and increased use of hospice services could greatly improve quality of life for one of the most vulnerable populations in America, elderly African Americans. 
A new project funded by the John and Wauna Harman Foundation and others will enable the Center for Practical Bioethics to implement a two-year program working with African American faith communities and community collaborators (i.e., hospices) in four cities to increase advance care planning and use of hospice services. Cities include Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas,  Kansas City, Philadelphia, and West Palm Beach.
The rationale for the program is rooted in American history and culture. Many African Americans distrust our healthcare system – which once practiced segregation, involuntary sterilization and unethical research practices – and are understandably reluctant to engage in a process that they perceive could put them at greater risk of being underserved. African Americans are also markedly more religious than the U.S. population and more reliant on faith leaders to help them make healthcare decisions. 
The project, launched on December 1, 2015, includes four phases:
Phase I – Congregations in targeted cities will recruit two-to-three Advance Care Planning (ACP) Ambassadors to commit to a six-month advance care planning program.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.