Category: Saving Lives

Saving Lives Initiative Promotes Health through Tuscaloosa Heart Walk

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By Sophia Xiong and Jamesia Stevenson CCBP Graduate Assistants

For the sixth consecutive year, The University of Alabama’s Saving Lives Initiative participated in the American Heart Association’s (AHA) Tuscaloosa Heart Walk at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater. The event was held Saturday, March 7. “This is one of the largest groups that has participated in the last past few years,” said Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnership for Community Engagement at UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships.

Saving Lives was one of many organizations present to support AHA by promoting heart disease awareness and stroke awareness. More than 100 members of the Saving Lives network participated in the event and the network donated more than $800 to the American Heart Association through the Tuscaloosa Heart Walk.

“Today, we developed stations that highlight health information and promotion, nutrition, and physical activity. We also engaged the community with UA student organizations providing credible health information and healthy snacks for participants,” said Prewitt.

During the AHA opening ceremony, Prewitt was recognized as the recipient of the 2020 Heart of the Community Award for the Saving Lives program’s impact.

 “I started to participate in Saving Lives six years ago,” said Sheila Lee from Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Tuscaloosa. “The program has just been phenomenal because it has made us aware of our bodies and health. In the church, we think about the health of our spiritual lives, but this program made us aware of our physical health too. It doesn’t only provide us with health information, but also makes us think outside the box about how we can get the information to our congregation and how to work together to promote healthier living.”

Annette Harris, a health advocate from Benville Baptist Church in Cottondale, agreed that this program had influenced her church. “I think it makes a great impact in this community as well as churches. I want to encourage more people to get involved with this work through these events.”

This year, three UA student organizations also joined the Tuscaloosa Heart Walk by partnering with Saving Lives: the National Black MBA Association, Hands in Health, and Alpha Epsilon Delta.

Andre Smithson, a second-year MBA student at The University of Alabama, joined the Heart Walk as a representative from the National Black MBA Association. “I’m here as a representative from National Black, supporting the Heart Walk. I’m here to greet people who are coming in and encourage them to keep having a good time, keep on walking, and stay as positive as they can,” Smithson said. The National Black MBA Association is about encouraging African Americans to get their masses into business and get African Americans in executive roles across multiple organizations. “I think the Heart Walk is a really good opportunity to encourage the black community to be more active and help them reduce heart disease.”

“We are here to talk about ‘MyPlate’ and different helpful nutrition facts,” said Morgan Renfroe, a senior student in Public Health at the table of Hands in Health. “We are also here to promote exercising and healthy eating. Our table is about telling people what types of foods and what proportions they should be eating. We have different plates and different serving sizes set up. We would ask people what they think the nutrition proportion for a healthy diet should be, and then tell them the real proportion. Some people actually asked ‘What is this?’ and when they saw how much the actual proportions should really be, they were sometimes shocked. I think this is a really cool way to connect knowledge with demonstrations.”

Leah Thomas, president of Alpha Epsilon Delta, also introduced their table. “At our table, we have some questions about physical activities and are giving people some knowledge about how much exercise they need to get. Then we let them try a few like doing five jumping jacks or holding a squat for five seconds, and they can win a healthy snack.” Alpha Epsilon Delta is a pre-health honor society that has many pre-med students. “We also have a lot of children coming, so we think it is important to make them see that it can be fun to exercise,” Thomas said.

“I’m really surprised with such a huge level of turnout from the community for the Heart Walk,” said Jamesia Stevenson, a second-year MBA student. Stevenson is also a graduate research assistant under Prewitt. “This is my first time being a part of the Heart Walk. I think that it is such an amazing experience to be involved in a local community event like this and to work with everybody here to promote heart health awareness.”

Saving Lives is under the direction of Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for community engagement at UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships, which is an initiative of the Division of Community Affairs.

For more information about the program contact Prewitt at or at (205) 348-9819.

Saving Lives is a faith-based wellness program established by The University of Alabama’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships to advocate for healthy families and communities through faith.

Saving Lives Program Begins New Year with CPR Training

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By Ashley Cunigan CCBP Student Program Assistant

The Division of Community Affairs’ Saving Lives program began a new year of programming on September 11 with a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) presentation by a representative from the American Heart Association (AHA) in the Center of Community Based Partnerships.

John Tutt, senior community CPR manager with the American Heart Association, met with Saving Lives members to discuss best practices for this year’s initiatives. He expressed enthusiasm about potential health improvements for Tuscaloosa County residents because of the good work of the Saving Lives program.

“There was a bequest specifically designed for Tuscaloosa County before I came in,” Tutt said. “I inherited a new role as the Southeast affiliate for community CPR and wanted to come to Alabama to meet those involved. I believe there are committed community partners in this area. We want to solicit ideas to be as impactful as possible.”

Tutt has been an instructor in first aid and CPR for over 25 years. He expressed strong convictions about the mission of hands-on learning and informed participation that could be completed in just two to three minutes. Using Automated External Defibrillator (AED) trainer kits, Tutt demonstrated the ease with which a person could become CPR certified. Saving Lives advocates were intrigued at the idea of running their own training sessions for their organization using the AED devices

“The clients we serve aren’t always part of a faith-based community, said Lynn Armour, executive director of the Good Samaritan Clinic in Tuscaloosa. “We want to provide resources that will make patients aware of their spiritual and physical health. There are a multitude of community events we could host to make an impact.”

Saving Lives contributors are not only focusing their attention on churches in Tuscaloosa. Community organizations, nonprofits and educational institutions are also helping in the efforts of this campaign. Lawanna Walker, Stillman College student development director, is planning a health fair event to engage students on campus.

“We aren’t looking to reinvent the wheel, we want the wheel to look better,” Walker said. Stillman College administration is looking to start an annual health fair with CPR components for students to be trained. Stillman’s athletics program has encouraged athletes to participate in this program with the hope that other students would become involved.

Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of community programs and partnerships for community engagement in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, thanked Dr. Tutt and Saving Lives advocates for their contributions to the CPR program.


Saving Lives Sponsors Have Faith in Heart Tent at Annual Tuscaloosa Heart Walk

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By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Fellow

For the fifth consecutive year, The University of Alabama’s Saving Lives Initiative participated in the American Heart Association’s Tuscaloosa Heart Walk at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater.

This year the event was held on March 2 and Saving Lives used the opportunity to spread its message of spiritual and physical health.

“I am so happy to be here today. I had such a good time last year,” said Letrell Peoples, of New Zion Missionary Baptist Church. “This is a great opportunity to encourage people in the community to improve their health through awareness, just as we do in our congregation. We all need good information about heart disease and stroke prevention.”

This year the group, which falls under the umbrella of UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships, sponsored the Have Faith in Heart Tent, as one of 18 area organizations and businesses that took part in the annual community event.

The Rev. Tyshawn Gardner, pastor of Plum Grove Baptist Church, and some of his church members came out to show support for the event. Plum Grove is a Saving Lives member church.

“I think activities like this are important to live healthy lives, for longevity of life, and overall physical health,” Gardner said before heading to the track.

Saving Lives partnered with UA student organization Eta Sigma Gamma to get students involved in educating the public about the importance of staying healthy and active.

“This is an opportunity for our students to get experience working out in the community and interacting with community members,” said UA Associate Professor Jen Nickelson, who holds a PhD in public health and serves as the faculty advisor for Eta Sigma Gamma. “For many of the students, this is one of the first times that they have interacted with the community, promoting health and encouraging healthy habits. It gives our students experience and gets them excited.”

Nickelson said she and her students discussed ways people can improve their health, increase exercise, improve their diet, and lower body fat while distributing fruit, nuts and water.

Saving Lives and Eta Sigma Gamma often partner for community outreach events.

Sally Klimek, a senior from South Bend, Ind., said she worked with the group at the Holt Health Fair as well.

“I like that it gave me an opportunity to not only get involved with health education, but also with the American Heart Association,” Klimek said.

Maruka Walker, a graduate assistant from Mobile, Ala., works with the Saving Lives Initiative and skipped her hometown’s Mardi Gras activities to attend the worthwhile cause.

“I think it’s an opportunity for the University to use its resources and engage with the community, while providing credible health information,” said Walker, who has been involved with Saving Lives for more than a year. “We get to share the resources that are needed so people can get on the journey to wellness.”

Saving Lives is under the direction of Dr. Nicole Prewitt, director of programs and partnerships for Community Engagement at UA’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships, which is an initiative of the Division of Community Affairs.

For more information about the program contact Prewitt at or at (205) 348-9819.

Saving Lives is a faith-based wellness program established by The University of Alabama’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships to advocate for healthy families and communities through faith.

Saving Lives Graduation 2018

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By Kirsten J. Barnes
CCBP Graduate Fellow

Saving Lives celebrated the culmination of several months of hard work and determination by each church in the health and wellness advocacy program on Sept. 18 at the Bryant Conference Center.

Before being given certificates of achievement and expressing what the program meant to them individually, the 19 Saving Lives advocates from five area African-American churches displayed posters detailing each of their advocacy projects.

At Plum Grove Baptist Church, Shaunta Sanders and Javelin Lewis served as the advocates. Their project was to create a Healthy Eating Expo by connecting and engaging community members. Lewis said the program “empowered” her to take its health message back to her congregation. “We got out into our church and we felt equipped. We were excited about it and our church got excited.”

For Lewis the Saving Lives message held a personal meaning. “It took me some time before I could make the connection, but I kept thinking about my own mom. She didn’t work out, she didn’t eat healthy and she smoked for as long as I think I’ve been alive,” Lewis said. She explained that her sister from Tennessee called to tell her that their mother had collapsed at church. Nine days later she died.

“It was a hard thing to swallow,” Lewis said. “She’d had an aneurysm while at church praising God.” She added that the Saving Lives Initiative has given her hope. “I feel like we can save some mamas. I feel like we can save families. It’s called Saving Lives. We can do that if we take this information and we take it into our churches and we put in the hands, minds and hearts of people. People can live.”

Lewis explained how the program has made a difference and can continue to make a difference in the African-American community, because knowledge is empowering.

“Sometimes these things happen because we don’t know. We don’t have the right information. We don’t have the right direction and we don’t know which way to go,” Lewis said. “Well, Saving Lives gives us that. So, to the advocates here, please know that this is not a little task that you’ve undertaken. This is a very big thing. But just know that God is with you and will take you from beginning to end.”

Lewis’ sentiments were echoed by other advocates. “I just want to thank God for the Saving Lives Initiative. I want to thank God for giving me the information through the Saving Lives Initiative. I don’t think there is any other organization where I have learned so much about health” said Valerie Cleveland, who works as a counselor at a nursing home.

Cleveland is a member of Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church and she helped to organize a program entitled “Let’s Talk” which helped start a conversation about death and dying, advanced directives, powers of attorney, funeral arrangements and more.  “We know we are going to die. So let your family know of your wishes. Don’t leave that stress on your family,” Cleveland said. “This is so dear to my heart because I work in a nursing home.”

During their initial meeting they engaged members of their congregation through presentations by an attorney and hospice staff members. “We did reach our goal because we got our participants to thinking,” Cleveland said. “I’m hoping that when we have our second workshop, those papers that we hand out, they’re going to bring them back and we’re going to notarize them and that’s all they need.”

“I was personally convicted to start to thinking about the conversations that I need to have in my family,” said Dr. Nicole Prewitt, who serves as the director of programs and partnerships for community engagement at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP) and directs Saving Lives activities. Prewitt recalled her father explaining to her family his final wishes before his untimely death. “My dad passed away at 59 unsuspectedly, but I remember how he was kind enough and loved us enough to share that information.”

Letrell Peoples, who attends New Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Northport, said her church had struggled to create a senior ministry for years, but she lacked the motivation to start the program until connecting with Saving Lives. “The academy gave us the little push and the structure and the guidance that we needed,” she said. “It took seven years for us, but this was the time and we thank Saving Lives.”

Saving Lives is a faith-based wellness program established to advocate for healthy families and communities through faith. For more information about the program, email Prewitt at or call her at 205-348-9819.


Saving Lives Expands Program to Develop Leaders in Health Advocacy

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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:

Saving Lives Connects With West Alabamians at 2018 Tuscaloosa Heart Walk

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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

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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,

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."