Church communities boost efforts to lower African-Americans’ blood pressure, study finds

“The curriculum encouraged more dialogue and collaboration as opposed to us just lecturing to them, and I think they appreciate that, us being more collaborators as opposed to just teachers,” Hoyte-Badu said. “I think it created a safe environment and supportive environment for them to kind of share how they were doing with the challenges and just feel comfortable to share their journey in trying to make behavioral changes, because that’s really difficult.”

The sessions were always opened with a prayer by a health adviser or a participant, including Scripture that was relevant to that week’s topic, Hoyte-Badu said.

Nearly half of Americans now have high blood pressure, based on new guidelines

Members of her church received the project well and were excited to be a part of it, she said. At the end of the program, they had a potluck meal, and everyone bought a healthy dish they had learned about or had found themselves.

“The lay health model was a good one to have as part of the design,” said Mimi Kiser, a research assistant professor at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study. “It fits well into the culture of the church and also into effective community-based strategies.”

She also said the study contributes to a gap in the literature around whether faith-based intervention projects are effective.

The use of the church as a location is significant to Kiser, who is also a senior program director at the Interfaith Health Program at Emory, especially in a community that may not have a trusting relationship with health care.

“Faith-based settings, they do tend to be sources of trusted information, and so when public health can align with those sources of trust in community-based efforts, it strengthens disease prevention and health promotion activities,” she said.

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