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Adventists Best Peers in Johns Hopkins Diabetes Study

Story by Myrtle Evans
Published 5/15/12

As part of the study, members at United In Christ suggest primary barriers to healthy eating.

In 2009 the Johns Hopkins Center for Nutrition, in partnership with the American Diabetes Association, embarked on studying churches in Baltimore to see if churches could help members reduce their risk factors for diabetes. The Healthy Bodies Healthy Souls study of 15 churches included Allegheny East Conference churches—United in Christ, Cherry Hill and Miracle Temple. Results from the study were recently released.

The first phase of the study involved all churches participating in health screenings and completing a health questionnaire evaluating food frequency consumption, food purchase and preparation and physical activities. In the second phase of the study, churches were charged with creating a collaborative intervention plan for their congregations. The plans included offering informational sessions on potluck dinners, exercise challenges, educational sessions, bulletin inserts, healthy cooking and healthy snacks.

Pastor Gary Adams of United in Christ and leaders from multiple church departments were assembled to tackle the health challenges facing the church. The Hospitality Department served bottled water, prepared low-sodium meals, offered fresh sliced fruit during potluck dinners and formed exercise groups. Those churches that were not involved in the intervention phase were asked to continue their daily health routine.

Terry Black, a United in Christ member, said, “This program showed me a lot of different ways to prepare healthy meals and incorporate exercise into my busy schedule.”

Following the study, data collected from the results of the pre/post health assessments were measured and compared which resulted in the cohort involving the Seventh-day Adventist Churches did better than the cohorts involving Baptist, Church of God in Christ, Catholic and nondenominational churches in the areas of health outcomes, behavior and physical activity. 

Amber Summers, MHS, RD, and a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins who worked on this study observed, the program “demonstrated the effectiveness of working with churches as the focal point in a program to impact diabetes risk factors among African Americans.  The approach used, which emphasized collaboration between university researchers and church communities, helped to design culturally appropriate, potentially sustainable program components that were tailored to each church … and has the potential to be transferred to other African-American church settings.”

Adventist members participate in a collaborative session.

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