Academic journal article ABNF Journal

"Let's Get Moving: Let's Get Praising:" Promoting Health and Hope in an African American Church

Academic journal article ABNF Journal

"Let's Get Moving: Let's Get Praising:" Promoting Health and Hope in an African American Church

Article excerpt

Abstract: Stroke and cardiovascular disease are major health problems for African Americans. This article describes challenges, strategies employed, and successes in implementing a combination "faith-based" and "faith-placed" health promotion program called the BLESS Project in a small rural church in North Carolina. The project was implemented by a congregational nurse who teaches nursing at a nearby HBCU and students with a grant from a local agency and partnerships with local health-care agencies. Despite numerous challenges in implementing the project, it was successful in increasing awareness of stroke and heart disease and the need for improving diet and increasing physical activity. Research is needed to test the efficacy of combining faith-based and faith-placed activities in preventing cardiovascular disease in African Americans.

Key Words: Faith-based, Health Promotion, African American, Hope, Cardiovascular Disease

African Americans disproportionately suffer disability and death from stroke; their risk of first ever stroke is almost twice that of whites. This article describes challenges and successes in implementing a combination "faith based" and "faith placed" health promotion program for African Americans at risk for stroke in a rural church in North Carolina. The American Heart Association (AHA, 2008) reports that the stroke incidence rates for those age 45 to 84 years are 6.6 per 1,000 and 4.9 per 1,000, for AfricanAmerican males and females, respectively; while, the rates are 3.6 per 1,000 and 2.3 per 1,000, for Caucasian males and females. The prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans is among the highest in the world: 42.6% of African-American men and 46.6% of African-American women ages 20 years and older have high blood pressure. Among African-American adults age 20 and older, 79.6% of women and 67.0% of men are either overweight or obese (BMI of 25.0 kg/m2 and higher). Also, 10.7% of African- American men and 13.2% of African- American women have diabetes, compared to 7.3% of Caucasian men and 6.8% of Caucasian women. Hypertension, obesity, and diabetes are all related to poor nutrition and lack of physical activity; yet only 25.3% of African Americans age 18 and older report regular physical activity.

North Carolina is a part of the Stroke Belt, a region encompassing the southeastern portion of the US with the highest incidence and mortality from stroke in the country (Howard et al, 2006). In 2006, cerebrovascular disease (which includes stroke) was the third leading cause of death in North Carolina, accounting for 4,698 deaths (Guilford County, 2007). In Guilford County, NC, in 2006 the death rate for cerebrovascular disease among African Americans was 43.5 per 100,000 (Guilford County, 2007).

Health promotion programs have long been a part of some churches' social activities. For example, churches are often sites for "Weight Watchers" meetings. However, "Weight Watchers" meetings are "faith-placed," not "faith based". Faith-placed health promotion activities may be held at a place of worship, but they do not include faith practices such as prayer or hymn singing during the health promotion activities. Our project included both "faith-based" and "faith-placed" activities designed to promote health and hope, as illustrated in Figure 1.

The BLESS Project

Our BLESS Project was implemented by the first author, a congregational nurse, at her Independent Missionary Baptist Church in northeastern North Carolina. The church sits in the countryside and is surrounded by a large rural community. Founded in 1868, it is one of the oldest African-American churches in the area. The membership is approximately 325, and attendance is approximately 125 each Sunday. The average age of the congregation is 50 years; 60% of the members are high school graduates and 7% have college degrees. There have been only nine pastors since the founding of the church. In order for the BLESS Project to be successful, the full support from the pastor, leaders, and members of the church was needed and acquired by the first author of this article. …

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