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Faith in Research: Improving the Health of African Americans

September 30th, 2013 · No Comments · Research

faith_300x300[The following was provided by the Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications.]

A theme of healthy living runs throughout Calvary Temple Baptist Church at 29th and Holmes in Kansas City, in its stacks of black health magazines, in HIV prevention posters and most profoundly in the Calvary Community Wellness Center, with rows of treadmills and elliptical machines and a rock-climbing wall.

This is all part of Rev. Eric Williams’ focus on health and the recent KC FAITH (Fostering Action and Improvements To Health) Initiative Community Forum.

The University of Missouri-Kansas City Community Health Research Group, in the Psychology Department, organized the forum that was recently held at the Kauffman Foundation. It is part of an effort, funded by an $850,000 federal grant, to create local strategies to address African American health disparities – whereby African American communities suffer rates of certain diseases much higher than those of the general population.

At the forum, officials announced that Kansas City area faith leaders will focus on diabetes and heart disease/stroke as their primary health priorities, a decision based on community health needs surveys conducted with 11 KC metro African American churches.

African Americans top the charts in nearly every health disparity, said Jannette Berkley-Patton, director of the UMKC Community Health Research Group and assistant professor in the UMKC Department of Psychology. She is the primary investigator of the $850,000 National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities grant that’s focusing on addressing African American health disparities in church-community settings.

She presented findings from the health-needs assessment surveys at the forum and reported that diabetes and heart disease/stroke were the priority health disparity issues identified by survey respondents. The KC FAITH Initiative will address these issues by developing a pilot church-based health intervention that will include health education, screening and linkage to care strategies. Six local churches will be involved in the pilot study.

Berkley-Patton is also the principal investigator of a National Institute of Mental Health-funded project, Taking It to the Pews, to examine religiously-appropriate HIV testing intervention strategies in African American churches. A key statistic: 13 percent of the U.S. population is African American but 50 percent of those with HIV are black.

Now close to 30 churches in the Kansas City region – and 10 in Montgomery, AL — have used Taking It to the Pews toolkit materials/activities which includes HIV education and church-based HIV testing strategies that can be infused into their church services through sermon guides, church bulletins, posters, printed and video testimonials and games that can be played in Sunday school. Calvary Community Outreach Network is co-developer of Taking It to the Pews.

Other strategies discussed for improving diabetes through church included pastors modeling receipt of diabetes screenings, sports leagues, partnerships with fitness centers and serving healthy food at church events. For heart disease/stroke, strategies included weight-loss, walking and smoking cessation programs — all at church.

To accelerate the successful work of Berkley-Patton and Williams, UMKC Chancellor Leo Morton talked about the Translational Medicine Institute, on the ballots Nov. 5 in Jackson County. Partnering with Children’s Mercy and Saint Luke’s Health System, UMKC would receive $8 million annually for 20 years for research.


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