Faith-Based Intervention Effective at Managing Hypertension in Blacks

Lifestyle intervention delivered in churches by community-based health workers led to a significant reduction in blood pressure among African Americans compared to health education alone, according to a study led by researchers at NYU School of Medicine and released yesterday.

Churches are an influential institution for health promotion in black communities. While some faith-based interventions have successfully increased cancer screening, lowered weight, and promoted better nutrition, the research team says that this study — commonly referred to as FAITH — s the first and largest community-based study that evaluates the effect of comprehensive lifestyle intervention on reducing blood pressure among African Americans in black churches.

The prevalence of high blood pressure in African Americans in the United States is among the highest in the world. More than 40 percent of non-Hispanic African-American men and women have high blood pressure. For African Americans, high blood pressure also develops earlier in life and is usually more severe, according to the American Heart Association.

“African Americans have a significantly greater burden of hypertension and heart disease, and our findings prove that people with uncontrolled hypertension can, indeed, better manage their blood pressure through programs administered in places of worship,” said Gbenga Ogedegbe, MD, MPH, professor of Population Health and Medicine at NYU School of Medicine and the study’s lead author. “Vulnerable populations often have lower access to primary care. We need to reduce racial disparities in hypertension-related outcomes between blacks and whites. Additionally, we hope clergy and church leaders will take note of our findings and replicate these interventions in their churches.”

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