Category: Saving Lives

Saving Lives Expands Program to Develop Leaders in Health Advocacy

By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistant

The Saving Lives program has broadened its activities to reach outside the church and into the classroom and the community. What started as a program to teach members of area African American churches about health disparities and ways to combat chronic problems like hypertension and diabetes has expanded to include training church members to be leaders in health advocacy.

The Savings Lives Academy provides a complete curriculum to teach church members ways to improve their physical, mental and spiritual life, while simultaneously helping others.

Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, was quick to point out that “This new phase of the Academy builds upon the original work of the Saving Lives initiative, but does not replace it.”

“It’s not often that you have the opportunity to put hands and feet to a vision that has already been established,” said Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, an initiative of the Division of Community Affairs at The University of Alabama.

“What is so awesome is that this vision was started years ago. I have had the opportunity along with others to bring to life this idea of an academy to prepare advocates to work with member churches to improve overall health and wellness,” Prewitt said.

Savings Lives is the creation of Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president of community affairs, and Carol Agomo, director of community and administrative affairs, and has continued to gain momentum since its inception in 2012.

The academy concept began with Dr. Prewitt at the helm in March 2018. Members were asked to come up with ideas about the unique ways individual churches can have a lasting impact on the communities they serve.

During each meeting, the group fellowships with one another over a healthy meal and then come together to learn information which will be shared with their church members, as well as members of their communities.

During the Saving Lives meeting held June 5 in Capital Hall, participants had an opportunity to complete CPR training and be taught about health using scripture and dialogue.

“We know that wellness is much more than not being sick. Wellness is an active process which balances complete physical, mental and social well-being,” said Rosalyn Robinson, a CCBP graduate assistant who is a doctoral student in the executive higher education program.

“Wellness,” Robinson said, “is not just the absence of disease or infirmity; it’s being aware and continually making choices toward healthy living and a healthy lifestyle.”

Robinson talked to the group about mental health, particularly depression and anxiety, using several scriptures as reference points to guide her lesson.

During the discussion, members discussed being anxious about health-related tests and cancer scares, and shared the peace they found in prayer and the importance of being able to have peace of mind in the face of adversity.

Having already met several times this year, the latest session was focused on coming up with a plan for their community engagement project. Members shared ideas and discussed ways to design the project and facilitate their plans.

“We have decided to have a program to discuss living wills, advanced directives and hospice care,” said Shelia Lee, a member of Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church.

Each team will receive Academy support to implement at least one community engagement project (church health event) during the window of June–August.

Each community engagement project must: 1) address a need identified by the church; 2) include at least one portion of the Saving Lives trilogy (provide health-related information, increase knowledge about healthier eating, promote healthier physical activities); 3) have pastoral support for implementation; 4) involve organizations or representatives from the public health community; 5) receive program evaluation and evaluation support offered by the Saving Lives network.

Prewitt, who has overseen the program’s transformation, provides reassurance and encouragement for the participants to develop project goals and objectives for the engagement activities, while providing hands-on support for the members.

“Tonight we will think about that idea, develop some goals related to your research, and identify your partner, and then begin the planning,” Prewitt said to the group of about 25 attending the June 5 meeting.

One church, she said, is partnering with other churches in the area to plan an Alberta City Community Extravaganza on July 14. “We are having a community block party from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a health fair and a kids’ zone,” said Kevin Croom, a member of College Hill Baptist Church.

Participants expressed their appreciation for the program, saying they gained knowledge through the interaction with each other and from the facilitators, just as they do when attending church.

“The classes give me information about healthy options I can make to better myself and to help other folks,” said Gwendolyn Rollins of College Hill Baptist Church. “I share the information with my church members, family members, friends, neighbors, everybody.”

Other participants said the program has encouraged them as a church body to provide valuable information in addition to inspiration for their congregation.

“We’re going to do a seniors’ ministry and provide good information to the elderly in our church, who have been really interested in some of the information that we plan to provide,” said Deborah Day of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church, who also is a Zumba (exercise fitness) instructor. “I want to incorporate exercise into the ministry also.”

For more information about the program visit: http://ccbp.ua.edu/saving-lives/.

Saving Lives Connects With West Alabamians at 2018 Tuscaloosa Heart Walk

By Joon Yea Lee
CCBP Graduate Assistant

Saving Lives, an outreach program of UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships, took part in this year’s Tuscaloosa Heart Walk sponsored by the American Heart Association on Saturday, March 3.

Saving Lives volunteers, led by Dr. Nicole B. Prewitt, CCBP’s director of programs and partnerships for community engagement, successfully advanced Saving Lives’ mission of providing health information and promotion, nutrition, and physical activity to participants and their families and friends throughout West Alabama.

The annual 5k began at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater with check-in and fun activities promoting various healthy life styles from flash mob, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) demonstrations, healthy snacks and warm-up dances led by UA mascot Big Al. Saving Lives volunteers also spent the early morning educating and encouraging healthy eating and life style using props, giveaways and handouts to people visiting the Saving Lives tent. Approximately 40 Saving Lives members and 115 participants interacted with the Saving Lives team.

“Saving Lives includes amazing churches committed to healthy living,” said Prewitt. “I am so honored to have had an opportunity to coordinate our involvement in the community.”

Jennifer Lynette Lee completed the 5k with her mom, who goes to Martin Mission C.M.E. Church, where they heard about the Heart Walk. “I think the biggest thing I learned today is the importance of being active; it was a good walk,” said Lee. “I feel good. My heart’s racing and I feel like I’m doing the right thing. So taking from this, I’m going to try to incorporate it into my daily life so I can be healthy.”

Annette Harris, who goes to Benville Missionary Baptist Church, a Saving Lives member church, has been participating in the Heart Walk for several years. “I enjoy Saving Lives,” Harris said, “because it’s a positive way to give back to the community, because it starts in the church, and it gets church involved to reach out to the community.

“Even one person makes the difference,” she said. “Saving Lives is a tremendous help to our church and so we try to branch out. I have been trying to lead a healthy life style, try to eat healthy, exercise, mentally keep myself ready and stay focused. Today, at first I wasn’t ready, but they prepared us (before the walk) and it was good. I did all the challenges and won the T-shirt!” (for eating Brussels sprouts at all four stations).

Saving Lives has been participating in Tuscaloosa Heart Walk since 2015. This year, Saving Lives raised $750 for the Heart Walk, adding to $205,300 raised in total for the 2018 Tuscaloosa Heart Walk. This year’s American Heart Association goal for Tuscaloosa was $250,000. More than 500 participants registered for the 5k, walking to honor survivors of cardiovascular disease and stroke in the community.

Saving Lives will be a part of next year’s Heart Walk and in the meantime will be recruiting and training more church members and attending promotional activities such as Holt High School Health Fair on Saturday, March 24.

Saving Lives Dinner Meeting Reviews the Accomplishments and Announces Future Directions


By Sophia Xiong
CCBP Volunteer

At a year-ending appreciation dinner on December 14, 2017, the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) and its Saving Lives community partners concluded another successful year and discussed future initiatives, according to Dr. Nicole B. Prewitt, CCBP director of programs and partnerships for community engagement. About 25 University and community members attended the dinner at the Bryant Conference Center.

The dinner marked the end of the fifth year of the faith-based wellness program and was the occasion for outlining new initiatives for the next five years. “Building on the foundation of a fruitful past, Saving Lives is ready to move forward for the next five years,” Prewitt said. “Our plans call for the creation of a Saving Lives Academy, which will build on what we have learned from our research and from our members’ input. These new measures will be the next step in the Saving Lives network’s goal of connecting faith with healing.”

Prewitt, who has an Ed.D. in adult, higher and community education from Ball State University, joined the Division of Community Affairs in the fall of 2017. She brings with her a background in higher education, including serving as dean of Instructional and Student Services at J.F. Drake State Community and Technical College. Prewitt also is active in community engagement and local church ministry in the Macedonia CME Church in Greene County and the Martin Mission CME Church in Hale County.

Since 2012, Saving Lives has worked with an increasing number of local churches to promote various health related events such as health screenings, cooking demonstrations, and workshops for the mind, body and spirit.

Until Prewitt joined the division, Carol Agomo, director of community and administrative affairs, led the Saving Lives program. At the appreciation dinner, Agomo offered this review of the program: “As I look at what we have accomplished over the past five years, we have advanced the Saving Lives trilogy to provide health-related information, increase knowledge about healthier eating, and promote healthier physical activities.” Agomo was awarded a certificate of appreciation for her work with the organization.

Prewitt offered her conceptualization of how churches participating in the new Saving Lives Academy would receive support for semi-annual health screenings, church health profiles, health-expert speakers, and instruction in health education. In addition to these resources, the Saving Lives Academy will also provide quarterly training modules.

In return, the designated churches would be responsible for conducting three distinct health related activities throughout the year; preparing monthly activity reports; and recruiting new churches to join the Saving Lives Academy. The dinner meeting concluded with an evaluation activity designed not only to provide feedback about what Savings Lives Academy currently means to the community but also to provide ideas for its future.

The next steps in establishing the design and purpose of the Saving Lives Academy include the establishment of an advisory group in early 2018, which will include the participants at the dinner and members of the pioneering Saving Lives churches.

College Hill Baptist Church Holds Health Screening as Part of Saving Lives Program

Tracey Webster of HealthMed, Inc., discusses health screening results with College Hill Baptist Church member Gary Heard.
Tracey Webster of HealthMed, Inc., discusses health screening results with College Hill Baptist Church member Gary Heard.

As part of the ongoing Saving Lives program, members of the College Hill Baptist Church were part of a health screening on August 24. This UA and community project has the purpose of making healthy living part of a church member’s faith practices.

A scripture-based approach was purposely selected because of its compatibility with the existing religious and cultural norms of citizens in Alabama and the nation. The initial target audience includes leaders and members in Alabama churches. The audience will expand to include leaders and congregational members from synagogues and mosques located in rural Alabama and eventually across the nation.

Saving Lives provides the opportunity for faith communities to apply their beliefs to improving their health and wellness.

The initial churches of what will be a larger program in the area are College Hill Baptist, Plum Grove Baptist, and First African Baptist.

UA students, faculty and staff are conducting the program in cooperation with local church leaders and congregations.

Undergraduate students Zeb Akers and Lauren Tredeau work the health screening desk at kCollege Hill Baptist Church. Being screened is church member Anthony McMullen.
Undergraduate students Zeb Akers and Lauren Tredeau work the health screening desk at kCollege Hill Baptist Church. Being screened is church member Anthony McMullen.

Saving Lives Celebrates First Year with Appreciation Dinner

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By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Assistant

When Dr. Samory T. Pruitt, vice president for community affairs at The University of Alabama, envisioned the Saving Lives program, he not only wanted a program that would promote healthy living in Alabama, but also a faith-based program that could be a model for all kinds of communities, urban and rural, throughout the nation.

"What better place to offer a health education program than within faith communities," Pruitt said at the Saving Lives Appreciation Dinner attended by a large crowd at the Bryant Conference Center on December 6.

Pruitt and several speakers used the occasion to look back on the first year's progress and forward into 2013.

For the past year, three Tuscaloosa churches, involving several hundred members of all ages, have participated in the program by taking advantage of a curriculum and professional speakers to offer workshops where members of the congregations are taught how spiritual health can contribute to physical health.

The Rev. Tyshawn Gardner expressed his enthusiasm about the program and how his Plum Grove Baptist Church congregation, along with First African Baptist Church and College Hill Baptist Church, will continue their participation in 2013.

Gardner said the program has taught his church family "how important our health is in service to our Lord. We are blessed and honored to be a part of it. From day one, it's been an exciting time. We look forward to those Wednesday nights of information sharing and participation."

Georgia White and Mary Brooks are the advocates, or program coordinators, for First African Baptist Church. "We have learned a lot together," said White, a retired nurse. "It is important for us, especially as African Americans, to know what is going on with us," acknowledging that African-Americans lead the country in high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

"This initiative has just shown us ways to counteract that and to help us along the way," White said. She praised the University for organizing the program and for selecting the three churches as partners.

Dr. Rebecca Kelly, the director of Health Promotion and Wellness at UA, will be the first speaker of 2013 for each group. "As we move forward and think about Saving Lives, I'd really like you to think about what impact this has had on our lives," said Kelly, a nutritionist and exercise physiologist and one member of a team of University researchers working on the project.

In February and August health screenings will be conducted at each church. "The screening is the first step to making a positive lifestyle change," said Dr. Martha Crowther, associate professor and director of clinical psychology at UA who is also a member of the research team. "That's why the February session is really important. It's where we conduct the first baseline health screenings. Six months later, another health screening will allow participants to see their progress.

"You can see midway how the changes are impacting your scores," said Crowther. "By completing your health screenings, you will gain insight of your health risks." In addition to personalized health information based on their scores, participants will benefit from the health care knowledge that can be shared and taught to generations to come.

"We want to use this data as a model for the country," said researchers Dr. Pamela Payne Foster, the deputy director of the Community and Rural Medicine Institute for Rural Health Research at UA. "Health disparities are major issues, particularly for African- Americans, and particularly in the South."

In Alabama more than 400,000 people suffer from diabetes, while 200,000 more have the disease and do not know it. Hundreds of thousands more suffer from heart disease, stroke, cancer and other chronic diseases affecting African Americans disproportionately.

"We are focusing on really addressing chronic conditions," Foster said. "These conditions are preventable and we know they are. We know if we knew what to do, we would do it. We know that the strategies to address these issues are complex, but we have to really try to get at them to delay health deterioration and to address the problems that people confront in their day to day lives "¦ to get them to take charge of their health."

Foster said faith-based approaches are especially important in reaching African-American communities. "There's power in the church. There's power particularly in the black church," Foster said. "So, we are really excited that this can be a model for other places in the country."

A full schedule of activities has been planned for 2013, said Carol Agomo, program coordinator in Dr. Pruitt's office. Participants will be reminded via email, telephone and the Saving Lives website, http://ccbp.ua.edu/saving-lives/.

College Hill Baptist Church Playing Key Role in Saving Lives Program

By Kirsten J. Barnes

The April 2011 tornado may have torn down the walls of College Hill Baptist Church, but it did not break the spirit of the parishioners who worship there.

"The word of God teaches us that our body, mind and soul belong to Him," said the Rev. Kelvin Croom, pastor of the church temporarily meeting at University Church of Christ. "Our body is a dwelling place for his holy spirit and as a result of that we need to take care of it. One of the tricks of the devil is that he destroys the body; and if he destroys the body, he's won."

College Hill is one of three area churches, which recently partnered with the University of Alabama's Center for Community-Based Partnerships for a new initiative called "Saving Lives."

Saving Lives is a Community Affairs signature health care initiative. In the development of this wellness outreach program, community members and researchers collaborate to combine knowledge and action for social change to improve community health, reduce health disparities and increase health literacy.

Ms. Tera Glenn, of Alabama Cooperative Extensions, demonstrates a healthy recipe option for members of First African Baptist Church.

Since January, the members of College Hill, Plum Grove and First African Baptist churches have been meeting once a month to discuss ways to become healthier physically as they grow spiritually.

In November, College Hill hosted Alabama Extension Agent Tera Glenn, whose work focuses on human nutrition, diet and health.

As the holidays approach, Glenn advised those attending the workshop not to make their stomachs the holiday wastebasket.

"Just because it's there, doesn't mean you have to eat it," Glenn told a group of about three dozen, advising them against snacking and sampling. "If it's enough to save, then save it. Don't let your stomach be the trash can."

Glenn said too often during holidays, people eat throughout the day and those who prepare the meals, nibble on broken cookies and food that stuck to the pan. In addition, she advised against perpetuating the "happy plate is a clean plate" phenomena.

"Get smaller plates," Glenn said. "Watch your portion size and exercise portion control."

The program targets minority groups as a way to help them combat poor eating habits with spiritual reinforcements so they can understand that God wants them to be more active so they can live fuller lives.

Croom knows first-hand the dangers of overeating. He changed his eating habits a year ago.

"I'm a prefect example, because I was killing myself by eating. Since a year ago I've lost right at 82 pounds," Croom said. "So, I know the value of good nutrition. This program was very timely."

At College Hill, Marcia Bailey and Jahnese Hobson are advocates for the program.

Bailey, who is a registered nurse, understands the importance of educating others about healthy lifestyles.

"When I looked at the information I thought it was something we could use," Bailey said of the Saving Lives curriculum. "Being a nurse, I felt it was something that would enlighten the church and help the membership."

So far, Saving Lives has attracted close to 50 people each month.

"We're working on our participation, but we're getting there," Bailey said. "We're still encouraging the members to come out to the meetings that we have."

Many people only think about diet changes for short periods of times, such as trying fade diets. Glenn advised against those and said instead people should opt for lifestyle changes.

College Hill Associate Pastor David Richardson said although he suffers from no known health problems, he still appreciates the information.

"Praise be to God, I'm completely healthy," Richardson said.

So far he's learned about diabetes, and the effects of age on weight gain.

"They also talked about how walking twice a day for 15 minutes can do so much for your cardiovascular system," Richardson said. "I have also implemented more discipline in my diet. In any area of life discipline is the key. The word disciple means disciplined one. The Bible tells us that you have to balance the physical with the spiritual."

The program is the brainchild of UA's Vice President of Community Affairs Samory Pruitt, who wanted to come up with a way to reach those who live in rural Alabama and inform them about things they can do to improve their quality of life physically and spiritually.

The three churches currently participating are part of a pilot program that will later spread to rural areas of Alabama.

"Somebody has got to say something, or we're going to eat ourselves to death," Pruitt said. "If you know better, you can do better."

Tameka Conwell has attended most of the meetings. She realizes she needs to make changes in her family's meal plan, but admits old habits are hard to break.

"I attended the session on stress and anxiety," said Conwell, adding that she has implemented some of the suggestions. However, she said implementing new portion sizes during the holidays would be difficult. "Follow up with me after the holidays and we'll see how I did."

College Hill Baptist Church Playing Key Role in Saving Lives Program

By Kirsten J. Barnes

The April 2011 tornado may have torn down the walls of College Hill Baptist Church, but it did not break the spirit of the parishioners who worship there.

"The word of God teaches us that our body, mind and soul belong to Him," said the Rev. Kelvin Croom, pastor of the church temporarily meeting at University Church of Christ. "Our body is a dwelling place for his holy spirit and as a result of that we need to take care of it. One of the tricks of the devil is that he destroys the body; and if he destroys the body, he's won."

College Hill is one of three area churches, which recently partnered with the University of Alabama's Center for Community-Based Partnerships for a new initiative called "Saving Lives."

Saving Lives is a Community Affairs signature health care initiative. In the development of this wellness outreach program, community members and researchers collaborate to combine knowledge and action for social change to improve community health, reduce health disparities and increase health literacy.

Since January, the members of College Hill, Plum Grove and First African Baptist churches have been meeting once a month to discuss ways to become healthier physically as they grow spiritually.

In November, College Hill hosted Alabama Extension Agent Tera Glenn, whose work focuses on human nutrition, diet and health.

As the holidays approach, Glenn advised those attending the workshop not to make their stomachs the holiday wastebasket.

"Just because it's there, doesn't mean you have to eat it," Glenn told a group of about three dozen, advising them against snacking and sampling. "If it's enough to save, then save it. Don't let your stomach be the trash can."

Glenn said too often during holidays, people eat throughout the day and those who prepare the meals, nibble on broken cookies and food that stuck to the pan. In addition, she advised against perpetuating the "happy plate is a clean plate" phenomena.

"Get smaller plates," Glenn said. "Watch your portion size and exercise portion control."

The program targets minority groups as a way to help them combat poor eating habits with spiritual reinforcements so they can understand that God wants them to be more active so they can live fuller lives.

Croom knows first-hand the dangers of overeating. He changed his eating habits a year ago.

"I'm a prefect example, because I was killing myself by eating. Since a year ago I've lost right at 82 pounds," Croom said. "So, I know the value of good nutrition. This program was very timely."

At College Hill, Marcia Bailey and Jahnese Hobson are advocates for the program.

Bailey, who is a registered nurse, understands the importance of educating others about healthy lifestyles.

"When I looked at the information I thought it was something we could use," Bailey said of the Saving Lives curriculum. "Being a nurse, I felt it was something that would enlighten the church and help the membership."

So far, Saving Lives has attracted close to 50 people each month.

"We're working on our participation, but we're getting there," Bailey said. "We're still encouraging the members to come out to the meetings that we have."

Many people only think about diet changes for short periods of times, such as trying fade diets. Glenn advised against those and said instead people should opt for lifestyle changes.

College Hill Associate Pastor David Richardson said although he suffers from no known health problems, he still appreciates the information.

"Praise be to God, I'm completely healthy," Richardson said.

So far he's learned about diabetes, and the effects of age on weight gain.

"They also talked about how walking twice a day for 15 minutes can do so much for your cardiovascular system," Richardson said. "I have also implemented more discipline in my diet. In any area of life discipline is the key. The word disciple means disciplined one. The Bible tells us that you have to balance the physical with the spiritual."

The program is the brainchild of UA's Vice President of Community Affairs Samory Pruitt, who wanted to come up with a way to reach those who live in rural Alabama and inform them about things they can do to improve their quality of life physically and spiritually.

The three churches currently participating are part of a pilot program that will later spread to rural areas of Alabama.

"Somebody has got to say something, or we're going to eat ourselves to death," Pruitt said. "If you know better, you can do better."

Tameka Conwell has attended most of the meetings. She realizes she needs to make changes in her family's meal plan, but admits old habits are hard to break.

"I attended the session on stress and anxiety," said Conwell, adding that she has implemented some of the suggestions. However, she said implementing new portion sizes during the holidays would be difficult. "Follow up with me after the holidays and we'll see how I did."

First African Baptist Welcomes Saving Lives Program

By Kirsten J. Barnes

Graduate Student

Center for Community-Based Partnerships

In January the University of Alabama started Saving Lives, a faith-based partnership to increase health literacy and to support residents in rural and urban Alabama in attaining higher levels of health and wellness through the use of prudent health practices and scripture.

In addition to using theologically sound doctrine to support health care information and recommendations, the program helps area churches facilitate workshops on topics such as talking to your doctor, weight management, being familiar with and understanding medications, preventing and managing diabetes, and cooking healthy nutritional meals.

The Rev. Richard L. Morgan, pastor of First African Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa, said he is pleased to offer the program to his congregation.

"It's great because it co-mingles what we try to do in our ministry," which Morgan calls "a holistic approach. We already had a wellness ministry going, but Saving Lives helps us to reinforce that part of the program. Because it's a scripture-based, it helps my parishioners take the word of God and apply it to their health issues."

First African Baptist pastor, the Rev. Richard L. Morgan, stands in the sanctuary of his church, which is one of three Tuscaloosa churches participating in a pilot faith-based health program.

 
The university purposely selected a scripture-based approach because of its compatibility with the existing religious and cultural norms of the state and nation. The initial pilot audience includes leaders and members in Tuscaloosa African American churches.

For Morgan's congregation of 500 people, he decided to use participation as a guide to measure the successfulness of the program. So far, his expectations have been met.

"Our goal was to get at least 50 participants each time. We've reached that goal," Morgan said. "We've gotten diversity in age and we've gotten some men and women. So, I'm pleased with what we've done. That shows how many people are really willing to get involved. Sometime with new ventures it's slow starting off, but this already seems to be building."

So far, First African has focused on reaching its members. However, Morgan said once they incorporate the information into its outreach ministry, his church will take the Saving Lives message to community centers and housing developments throughout the community.

"We're going to start to incorporate the program into our outreach ministry," said Morgan, adding that his congregation conducts monthly community outreach as an attempt to reach non-members.

This is exactly the kind of snowball effect that UA Vice President for Community Affairs Dr. Samory T. Pruitt hoped would occur when he envisioned the Saving Lives program.

"UA researchers and local pastors believe a combination of faith-based practices in collaboration with outreach and engagement scholarship strategies can contribute to an improvement in the overall health of Alabamians, reducing the risk of diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, hearth disease, cancer and stroke," said Pruitt.

The program will attempt to shed light on health care challenges facing 62 million rural citizens in the United States and the 2 million Alabamians who are dealing with a variety of health care and health insurance problems.

Ms. Tera Glenn, of Alabama Cooperative Extensions, demonstrates a healthy recipe option for members of First African Baptist Church.

 
Already, Morgan sees how the information is assisting his congregation, especially those battling high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney disease, cancer, obesity and illnesses common to African Americans.

"Ministry should impact the life of the person. You've got to be able to reach the people where they are," Morgan said. "They want Christ, but they are dealing with other issues as well. Everyone does their six month or annual check-ups, but having this reinforcement every month helps."

The goal of the program is to reach as many churches and congregations as possible by providing them with a curriculum and the tools necessary to spread the word about health living.

"We want to empower faith-based leaders and congregational members to engage in activities that will enhance their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being," Pruitt said. "A second objective is for the University of Alabama to conduct research that will answer questions on the type of engagement strategies that can help eliminate health disparities among minorities, as well as rural and inner-city residents. A third objective is to implement strategies in rural communities to increase the overall health literacy of the program participants."

Christopher Spencer, director of Community Development for the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, hopes that by starting with First African Baptist, College Hill Baptist, and Plum Grove Baptist, UA will gain insight into how best to expand the program into additional congregations.

"Researchers will utilize the best practices from the first three churches to develop a strategic plan to include other ethnic, religious and geographic groups to include congregational members from synagogues, mosques and diverse faith-based organizations located in Alabama and across the nation," Spencer said.

Morgan believe the program has great potential for expansion, but thinks the program will work best for congregations led by forward-thinking ministers with outreach and teaching philosophies.

"Every ministry is different," Morgan said. "Some pastors may not see it as a need. For certain congregations it may not be a good fit, based on the pastor's guidance. But for those congregations that are more health conscious it will be an added tool, especially for those servant leaders who try to be role models. For them, this would be ideal."

"This program will give church leaders and university researchers an opportunity to complete the assessment on the pilot churches and to make any necessary adjustments prior to implementing the initiatives in rural communities," Pruitt said.