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Taking It to the Pews

Jannette Berkley-Patton
Photo Credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications
Jannette Berkley-Patton Photo Credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications

$3.2 million grant awarded to Department of Psychology to assess HIV testing in churches

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Department of Psychology has been awarded a $3.2 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to assess HIV testing in African American churches.

The grant expands the Taking It to the Pews (TIPs) project, from feasibility and pilot studies to a full-scale clinical trial, examining religiously-appropriate HIV intervention strategies in African American churches. Some key statistics: 13 percent of the U.S. population is African American but 45 percent of those with HIV are black; about 75 percent of African Americans attend worship services.

“The church is a trusted institution in the African American community and can serve as a powerful setting in improving the health of its congregants along with community members served through church outreach ministries ,” says UMKC assistant professor Jannette Berkley-Patton, principal investigator on this grant and prior church-based studies.

The UMKC Community Health Research Group, led by Berkley-Patton, is already making a difference locally and nationally. About 30 churches in the Kansas City region and 12 in Montgomery, Alabama use Taking It to the Pews, infusing HIV education and testing strategies into church services through sermon guides, responsive readings, church bulletins, posters, printed and video testimonials, Bible bookmarks and games that can be played in Sunday school.

The primary aim of the new five-year grant study is to fully test the efficacy of a culturally and religiously tailored, church-based HIV screening intervention against a standard HIV information intervention on increasing HIV testing rates, at six months and a year. The study will include 1,540 adult African American church members and community members who use church outreach services. The other goal of the grant is to reduce high-risk sex behaviors. The study will engage up to 14 African American churches from the Kansas City area.

Using a community-engaged approach, church leaders will deliver the Taking It to the Pews intervention during regular activities at African American churches including Sunday services, Wednesday Bible study and ministry group meetings. Church and community members will also receive reminders about getting an HIV test from church telephone-tree messaging systems during a one-year period. Meanwhile, another group of churches will receive non-tailored HIV education materials from government and health organization sources. All churches will host three HIV testing events.

The primary faith organization collaborator on the grant is Calvary Community Outreach Network, a faith-based community organization that leads the effort to build the capacity of health ministries with Kansas City African American churches. The Rev. Eric Williams is executive director and the Rev. Sandy Wainright is project director.

Through the network and as pastor of Calvary Temple Baptist Church at 29th and Holmes in Kansas City, Williams, in collaboration with Berkley-Patton and other community partners, has focused on addressing African American health disparities — meaning African American communities suffer rates of certain diseases much higher than the general population. At Calvary, congregants see HIV prevention posters, can peruse stacks of black health magazines and have access to a wellness center.

Why the focus on health — at church? Williams answers with John 3:2.

“Beloved, I wish above all things that you may prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers,” Williams said. “At church, we tend to focus on the soul part and not the health part.”

Other grant collaborators include the Kansas City Health Department and KC CARE Clinic. Co-investigators on the grant include Kathy Goggin, Children’s Mercy; Stephen Simon, UMKC School of Medicine; and Kathryn Pitkin Derose, RAND Corporation. The study’s project director is Carole Bowe Thompson, research associate in the UMKC Department of Psychology.

Meanwhile, the UMKC Community Health Research Group and the KC FAITH (Fostering Action and Improvements to Health) Initiative, the community action board providing input on the church-based studies, are working to fight other life-threatening African American health disparities in church-community settings. Diabetes and heart disease/stroke are the top priorities that will be addressed through six churches via an $850,000 grant from the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, led by Berkley-Patton.


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