The demographics portend disaster: an increasingly older population in need of long-term care even as health-care costs rocket upward. The prognosis is widespread shortages of relief for the suffering.

As Faith in the Future makes clear, religious groups will need to step into the breach. This book is full of inspiring stories of people, places, and programs that have harnessed the power of religious faith to improve individual health and contribute to health-care programs.

These stories will motivate and guide people of faith as they apply their beliefs to the health-care crisis. Faith in the Future emphasizes that our nation's 350,000 congregations are a largely untapped resource for health care.

Synthesizing a 2001 conference of the same name held at Duke University, Faith in the Future has the strengths and weaknesses typical of books born in this fashion. Given the wide range of expertise gathered at the conference, the book offers a broad menu of stimulating ideas and experiences.

For example, in the introduction we meet Natalie Romine, a retired social worker in her 80s with severe osteoporosis. She finds great help at a church-based Shepherd's Center exercise class. There are 79 such centers based in churches in 19 states, and an appendix gives contact information for them and other organizations.

At times the book would benefit from more focus, but on balance the value of the assorted ideas far outweighs the occasional disorganization. The book consists of four sections. Part one outlines the current crisis in American health care, which results from an aging population and spiraling costs. Part two summarizes current research and demonstrates the positive role of religious lifestyles in health outcomes. Much of the ...

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