Faith-Based Initiatives in Appalachia Overview
In January 2012, Appalachia Community Cancer Network partnered with churches in Appalachian regions of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia to implement The Faith-Based Initiative to Promote Health in Appalachia.
This was a group randomized trial that compared a multi-level diet and physical activity intervention program ("Walk by Faith") to a control group receiving an educational program focused on cancer awareness and screening called "Ribbons of Faith." A total of 663 participants were enrolled from 28 churches across the five states.
Thirteen of the churches participated in Walk by Faith, a program focused on weight loss and increasing physical activity, and 15 received the Ribbons of Faith program focused on cancer screening.
Along with ACCN staff, local community experts and church volunteers from within the Walk by Faith and Ribbons of Faith churches led the program activities for the first year of the program. Once the 12 sessions were completed, participants attended a celebration event held in each church to recognize volunteers and participants, and to share success stories. After the series of education sessions and celebration events were completed, a follow-up set of measurements and surveys were conducted.
The programs were then passed along to church volunteers to continue within their church congregations for another one to two years to see if the programs could be conducted without additional assistance. The study was completed by November 2015. Preliminary analysis of final data showed the Walk By Faith program facilitated weight loss, especially among male participants. All Walk By Faith participants improved fruit and vegetable intake.Toolkit dissemination: Based on study results, toolkits were developed with the best elements of the Walk by Faith and Ribbons of Faith. The Walk by Faith toolkit was tested with Ribbons of Faith study participants. The toolkits are being further tested for the utility of self-administration. Toolkits, pedometers, educational materials, events and games are being offered to churches in northern Dauphin and Perry counties with supplemental funding from the Penn State Health Community Relations Community Health Project Start-up Grant.