Engaging the Community to Improve Nutrition and Physical Activity Among Houses of Worship
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Engaging the Community to Improve Nutrition and Physical Activity Among Houses of Worship

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    Prev Chronic Dis
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    Background

    Obesity, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition have been linked to many chronic diseases. Research indicates that interventions in community-based settings such as houses of worship can build on attendees’ trust to address health issues and help them make behavioral changes.

    Community Context

    New Brunswick, New Jersey, has low rates of physical activity and a high prevalence of obesity. An adapted community-based intervention was implemented there to improve nutrition and physical activity among people who attend houses of worship and expand and enhance the network of partners working with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

    Methods

    An adapted version of Body & Soul: A Celebration of Healthy Living and Eating was created using a 3-phase model to 1) educate lay members on nutrition and physical activity, 2) provide sustainable change through the development of physical activity programming, and 3) increase access to local produce through collaborations with community partners.

    Outcome

    Nineteen houses of worship were selected for participation in this program. Houses of worship provided a questionnaire to a convenience sample of its congregation to assess congregants’ physical activity levels and produce consumption behaviors at baseline using questions from the Health Information National Trends Survey instrument. This information was also used to inform future program activities.

    Interpretation

    Community-based health education can be a promising approach when appropriate partnerships are identified, funding is adequate, ongoing information is extracted to inform future action, and there is an expectation from all parties of long-term engagement and capacity building.

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