Select Readings

This page contains a small selection of academic resources that explore the connections between faith/religion, poverty, and global health around the world today. The links here are intended for one-time non-profit educational use only. Those particularly recommended are noted with a 

Preventive Medicine Reports: Review Article

♦  Levin, J. “Partnerships between the faith-based and medical sectors: Implications for preventive medicine and public health,” Preventive Medicine Reports 4 (2016): 344-350. A useful concise summary article by a public health epidemiologist.

Bibliography on Health and Religion as it affects women and children 

Women, Children, Health & Religion: A Bibliographical Sampler”

Select articles and book chapters by Dr. Holman:

♦ 1. “Don’t teach me to fish! What’s wrong with gift-charity?” (2015; Beholden, ch. 6). Considers the complex nature of “charity” and “gift” in faith-based responses to poverty, and offers suggestions for a thoughtful approach for individual action.

♦ 2. “Leitourgia and the poor in the early Christian world” (2001; The Hungry Are Dying, ch. 1). A detailed review and summary of early Christian responses to poverty, hunger, and disease, and how they were shaped by Greek, Roman, and Jewish concepts and practices.

3. “Orthodox Humanitarianisms: Patristic Foundations” (2016; Review of Faith & International Affairs). Why patristic texts are important in modern Orthodox humanitarian aid, and how they also affirm the value of human rights for health.

4. “Out of the fitting room: Rethinking Patristic Social Texts on ‘the common good'” (2011; Reading Patristic Texts on Social Ethics, ch. 6). How not to “cut and paste” patristic poverty texts to fit your institutional or personal agenda–and a discussion on (and illustration to help) understanding patristic ideals of ‘the common good,’ as it relates to Catholic Social Thought today.

5. “On the Ground: Realizing an ‘altared’ Philoptochia (2010; Philanthropy and Social Compassion in Eastern Orthodox Tradition, pp. 31-49). Discusses the idea of “liturgy” in early Christian writings on “the love of the poor”, and summarizes interpretive paradigms for contemporary ministry (the paradigms are described in more detail in the book God Knows There’s Need: Christian Responses to Poverty).

6. “Healing the World with Righteousness? The Language of Social Justice in Early Christian Homilies” (2009; Charity and Giving in Monotheistic Religions, pp. 89-110). How we talk about faith-based responses and motives to address poverty and injustice really matters; this article focuses on key Greek (and Syriac) terms that illustrate early Christian concerns with righteousness and social justice.

7. “Patristic Christian Views on Poverty and Hunger” (2010; Journal of Lutheran Ethics). A very brief overview of key themes on these topics.

♦ 8. “Healing the social leper in Gregory of Nyssa’s and Gregory of Nazianzus’s ‘Peri Philoptochias'” (1999; Harvard Theological Review). Detailed study on the narrative of “contagion” and medical theory as it related to three theological sermons describing the destitute and diseased poor in fourth-century Cappadocia.

9. “Martyr-Saints and the Demon of Infant Mortality: Folk Healing in Early Christian Pediatric Medicine” (2015; Children and Family in Late Antiquity, pp. 235-256).

10. Early Christian care for the sick poor: select excerpts (2-page handout)

The Lancet 2015 special issue on “Faith-Based Health Care”

♦ 1. Olivier et al., “Understanding the roles of faith-based health-care providers in Africa: Review of the evidence”  A very useful overview of the rich history of faith-based aid in health care initiatives in Africa. The author has coordinated (and written) a large bulk of the research that’s come out of the African Religious Health Assets Programme over the past decade. A must-read for anyone thinking about working in or supporting efforts on poverty and religion in Africa.

2. Tomkins et al., “Controversies in faith and health care” . Second in the series, this article outlines key ethical controversies where faith issues have real or potential impacts on health outcome for many around the world today.

3. Duff &Buckingham, “Strengthening of partnerships between the public sector and faith-based groups”. Third in the series, this article provides a valuable conceptual roadmap for action to constructively strengthen partnerships between religious groups and health policy and public health folks in the public sector.

Faith-based Responses to Refugees Today

2011 Special Issue of the Journal of Refugee Studies: “Faith-based humanitarianism in contexts of forced displacement”. A series of ten articles (plus introductory essay) with in-depth consideration of various issues related to religious aid and the refugee crisis.

2014 Special Issue of Forced Migration Review: “Faith and Responses to Displacement”. Several dozen brief reflections on this pertinent topic by persons active in (or affected by) refugee displacement responses around the world today.

Online Videos

OrthHuman_LogoColloquium on “Orthodoxy and Humanitarianism”
(this YouTube link offers the initial comments for a 2-day colloquium; see the sidebar in YouTube for links to all 25 videos of the various lectures and discussions)

JLIFL_logoLancet series videos on faith-based health care (Sept. 2015). Summaries of the three articles in the series (see above)


World Bank President Dr. Jim Yong Kim in discussion with diverse religious and public sector leaders about partnering for sustainable development.


Katherine Marshall, Senior Fellow of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs, here speaking on “Religion and Development” at the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University/Duke Divinity School on March 5, 2013.


“Health Justice – Hermeneutic of Blessing?” 2016 Grawemeyer Award in Religion lecture by Susan Holman, Senior Writer at the Global Health Education and Learning Incubator at Harvard University, delivered at Louisville Seminary on April 13, 2016.

Other (Academic) Websites of Interest


Harvard University Initiative on Health, Religion, and Spirituality


Harvard Divinity School’s Science, Religion, & Culture Program
dukectrThe Center for Spirituality, Theology and Health at Duke University


Duke Divinity School’s Theology, Medicine, and Culture Initiative

emoryEmory University:
(1) Interfaith Health Program at the Rollins School of Public Health
(2) Religion and Public Health Collaborative

Image: detail from an icon depicting an early Christian bishop (left) in conversation with a holy beggar (right)