UAB MHRC kicks off REACHing Churches for Better Health program

UAB MHRC teaming with local church association to improve health

mhrc_sThe University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Minority Health and Health Disparities Center (MHRC) is partnering with the Mount Pilgrim Baptist District Association to educate African-American church leaders about the importance of having healthy congregations.

The program is kicking off Friday, August 2, at Sardis Missionary Baptist Church, 1615 4th Court West, with puppet shows, mimes and singing for children, as well as a keynote speech by Dr. Vernon Swift, president of the Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention Inc. He will  discuss the link between physical and spiritual health.

Saturday, August 3, begins with a parade of churches and basketball for the children, and the day will include an address by keynote speaker Dr. W. M. Norwood, pastor of Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church, along with speakers from UAB and REACH.

The project is supported by a grant to the Mount Pilgrim Baptist District Association from the National REACH Coalition. The UAB MHRC helped the association secure a REACHing Churches for Better Health grant.

The National REACH Coalition was first launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1999. Over the ensuing 12 years, that support has resulted in significant progress in reduction of and/or better management of heart disease, some cancers, diabetes and other chronic illnesses among African-American, Asian-American/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino and Native American/Alaska Native communities around the country. REACH, or Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health, is a national effort focused on addressing chronic illness in communities of color by identifying, addressing and eliminating the underlying causes of health disparity.

“Our goal is to encourage the congregants of the Mt. Pilgrim Baptist District Association and surrounding communities to adopt a healthy lifestyle,” said Mona Fouad, M.D., director of the UAB MHRC.

“Our goal is to encourage the congregants of the Mt. Pilgrim Baptist District Association and surrounding communities to adopt a healthy lifestyle,” said the project’s principal investigator and sponsor Mona Fouad, M.D., director of the UAB MHRC and chair of the UAB Division of Preventive Medicine. 

The weekend kickoff celebration takes place during the association’s annual EAGLES Conference, What a Christian Man Wants, What a Christian Woman Needs:  The Holistic Approach-Mind, Body & Soul. It will help teach attendees about the importance of healthy eating, increasing physical activity and reducing the consumption of sweetened beverages. 

“In nearly every church, there is a sick and shut-in list that contains the names of congregants who miss service, either frequently or intermittently, for various health issues,” said Dr. Charles R. Winston Jr., moderator of the association. “As a result of missing services, congregants are not able to hear the word of God, fellowship with others or take part in church-related activities. Among other things, the purpose of the church is to grow the Body of Christ in many areas – spiritually, physically and mentally. This project wants to focus on the physical part of ministry by collaborating with the association’s existing members to adopt and/or amend existing church-related rules and protocols to promote healthy lifestyle practices.”

Dr. Winston said this includes training church kitchen staffs on the benefits of limiting consumption of sugary, sweetened beverages by consuming water as a refill, changing vending machines to include more water and fruit juices and modifying church beverage menus.

“This alone can make a tremendous difference in the health of the members of the association’s churches,” he added.

The association comprises more than 150 churches in three counties in the Birmingham region, and it is the largest Baptist association in Alabama.

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