Is it possible that religion and faith can influence physical well-being as much as it promotes spiritual healing?
Researchers from the UNT Health Science Center will try to understand this phenomenon by partnering with pastors at churches in the southern Dallas County to evaluate the success and effectiveness of preventive health interventions for obesity and diabetes, together with a curriculum that includes faith-based moments and initiatives.
The project will progress over five years and will focus on African-American women, since currently available statistical data identifies them to be more likely to become over-weight, and develop diabetes as compared to Caucasian women. Furthermore, African-American women are statistically more inclined to give importance to church and faith, and may be more likely to view health and sickness in a spiritual light.
Heather Kitzman-Ulrich, PhD, an Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Community Health and Principal Investigator said in a press release: “We hypothesized that if we included some faith-based concepts and involved their pastor, that this might improve their motivation and lead to better outcomes.”
A sixteen-week faith-based curriculum was built from the collaborative efforts of a group of advisory pastors and their wives, together with the Diabetes Prevention Program. The curriculum will include sermons for the pastors to deliver that aim at each week’s objectives, along with prayers and materials with some faith activities to take home.
To evaluate the success of these actions, investigators will track some information about the participants’ health such as waistline, weight, estrogen, blood lipids, cortisol levels and their diets. Data collected from those enrolling faith-related prevention will be compared to data from participants in similar diabetes prevention activities that don’t include faith-related activities.
Twelve churches will be participating in the project that is being funded by the National Institute of Health with a grant worth $1 million, and conducted by the Texas Center for Health Disparities.
Reverend George King of Cities of Refuge-Dallas said in a press release: “Our goal is not to make this feel like a program they are going through, but a lifestyle change they are making with the support of their pastors and fellow church members.”