Background African Americans have high disease and death rates due to cancer and cardiovascular disease. Health promotion efforts to improve diet have the potential to reduce these rates. Community Context Given their importance in the community and the extent of their reach, churches are effective avenues for health promotion efforts targeting African Americans. The objectives of this project were to promote healthy eating among African American church members, engage African American churches in the implementation of Body and Soul (an evidenced-based program that encourages healthy eating), and implement the program in the community with minimal resources. Methods From 2011 through 2014 we conducted a community engagement project to implement the 12-week Body and Soul program, which includes demonstrations of healthy recipes and peer counseling, in 20 churches. Participants (n = 310) completed baseline and follow- up surveys on their eating habits and experience with peer counseling. Church coordinators (n = 11) completed a survey evaluating the program. Outcome Participants' weekly servings of fruit (baseline, 4.3; follow-up, 5.4; P < .001) and vegetables (baseline, 4.5; follow-up, 5.3; P < .001) increased. Church coordinators reported enthusiasm about Body and Soul at their church, and 10 of 11 church coordinators indicated that their pastor encouraged members to attend Body and Soul events. Program success was promoted by engaging the pastor in program activities and by scheduling events soon after church services. Implementation challenges were variation in peer counseling among churches and low turnout at follow-up events. Interpretation The project was successfully implemented in the 20 churches, and increases in healthy eating were observed. This project demonstrated that Body and Soul can be implemented in communities with little funds or other resources.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grant numbers 1P60MD003433, R25CA163184) and the Veterans Affairs Associated Health Postdoctoral Fellowship Training Program through the Center for Chronic Disease Outcomes Research. The content is the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the views of the National Institutes of Health or Department of Veterans Affairs.