Faith-based interventions to prevent heart disease and stroke may be important to consider in some communities because these settings have traditionally been places where people trust the information provided. Members of a faith community may be more likely to adhere to the messages conveyed across the pulpit or through faith leaders than through other sources. Faith-based programs to address heart disease and stroke may include interventions focused on the individual or the environment (e.g., heart disease and stroke education, nutritious foods available at church functions). In addition, recent evidence suggests the importance of developing faith-based interventions that enhance social support for individuals to have healthy lifestyle behaviors (e.g., nutrition, physical activity).
Faith-based interventions are most effective when linked to interventions in other settings:
- Community-based settings (e.g., work with faith-based networks to increase community outreach and access to information about heart disease and stroke)
- School-based settings (e.g., make use of school facilities and equipment to host events that provide education and information about heart disease and stroke)
- Worksite-based settings (e.g., work with local businesses to sponsor on-site seminars regarding connections between spiritual health and physical health)
- Health care facility-based settings (e.g., invite health care providers to faith-based health events to increase access to health services such as screening and counseling)
- Home-based settings (e.g., set up cooking classes or walking groups for individuals and families in and around faith-based settings)
Previous work in faith-based settings has found:
- Sharing heart disease and stroke messages through faith-based informational materials (e.g., newsletters, church bulletins) can reach populations that might not respond to messages provided in other settings. Health messages may be trusted more coming from faith-based leaders as opposed to the community-at-large.
- Because faith-based settings may increase capacity to recruit and retain individuals thereby increasing positive health outcomes, these settings are a place to implement and evaluate heart disease and stroke interventions for the African American community, especially those in the middle to upper socioeconomic status who are under-represented in health promotion interventions more globally.
- Faith-based settings are conducive to group education programs since they typically have meeting space, cooking facilities and other resources.
- Group education interventions in faith-based settings may benefit from trained health educators and counselors. While lay health educators are a valuable asset, some participants have less confidence in the capability of peer leaders who may not have the same expertise as professionals. In cases where professionals are not feasible, it may be useful to train lay health educators to lead sessions.
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