Faith communities help improve health

People who participate in weekly community health education sessions at community churches lose weight and lower their blood pressure.

Those are the results of a project funded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and organized by the Department of Public Health at the Brody School of Medicine. Called the PROSPER project, for Preparing Ourselves for Spiritual Enrichment and Renewal, it focuses on churches as the center of community life in many areas.

Working in Edgecombe, Duplin and Lenoir counties, ECU experts created a curriculum to train lay health advisors. In two six-month projects, the advisors worked with 566 participants in 14 African-American churches. Those who participated in at least 10 weekly sessions lost weight and kept it off and also lowered their blood pressure.

In another example of combining churches and health, 79 people from 10 eastern North Carolina counties recently attended a seminar involving faith and health care professionals, called Pastor’s Conference: Linking Faith and Medicine in Diabetes Care. It was sponsored by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and the Jones County Health Department and organized by ECU.

Ruth Little of the Department of Public Health, is director of the PROSPER Project.