Faith-Based Interventions in Pee Dee to Improve Chronic Conditions
Chronic conditions such as health disease, diabetes and stroke are the leading cause of death in the Pee Dee region (Clarendon, Chesterfield, Darlington, Dillon, Florence, Georgetown, Horry, Lee, Marlboro, Marion, Sumter and Williamsburg counties) and is a region where many of our broadest racial disparities can be found.
The Department of Health & Environmental Control (DHEC)’s Pee Dee region affiliate decided to launch their “Soulfully Fit” project, an effort to take a faith-based approach to address health disparities and behavioral risk factors by engaging with local churches manage and mitigate the impact of chronic conditions on their congregations.
Method & Implementation:
Participating churches receive information and tools to assist them in developing their own health ministry plan specifically tailored to their community. Project coordinators met with the pastors and other church leaders regularly to provide coaching as well as additional information and resources. The project also worked to ensure that there was church buy-in for the initiatives, noting that it was critical that there be a community champion of the work for it to succeed.
The churches themselves were also instrumental in developing health assessments of their congregations to better gauge what potential health risks were most pressing. They also were encouraged to plan and implement health screenings, walking clubs, educational classes, smoking cessation classes, weight control efforts, stress management classes, and a host of other wellness programs.
The nature of this problem and work means that results can be hard to measure over short time periods, but many of the participating churches have already adopted tobacco-free policies and hydration policies to immediately improve community health, and local gardens and farmers have joined together to provide fresh fruit and vegetables. Soulfully Fit has also seen increases in physical activity among parishioners, and numerous health awareness events were hosted in the community as part of their efforts.
Most importantly, DHEC Pee Dee is continuing to help churches identify local resources available to aid them on their healthy lifestyle journey.