Monday, November 8, 2010

Amen to good health

Breaking the cycle of health disparities starts at the local level, especially when it comes to rural health issues. Today’s session on "Partnering with Rural Black Churches to Promote Men's Cardiovascular Health" served as an important case study in community-based participatory research. It also showcased a particularly interesting pilot study that helps inform health interventions directed at typically hard-to-reach communities.

“Are We Our Brother’s Keeper?” is an innovative study and intervention program aimed at improving the health of black men living in Orange County, N.C. There's a significant need to reach this community on the topic of cardiovascular disease, especially as black men have a higher heart disease- and stroke-related mortality rate than other populations.

The study, a collaborative effort lead by Eugenia Eng, a program investigator with the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, developed an intervention program that lay health advisors can use to confront disease disparity. The program created training tools to help lay health advisors engage black church members in discussions around health promotion and men’s health issues.

The study found that cultural tools, scripture as well as training grounded in religious context is critical in facilitating health education targeting the rural black men who are particularly vulnerable to cardiovascular disease.

What are some other key findings, you ask? Training that uses visual aids and creating a forum for black men to discuss health issues with one another is key to improving peer support and breaking the silence.

Health topics are deeply personal and because many communities lack a formal structure for health education and information, outreach efforts tied to community-based organizations and religious institutions can be an important partner-in-crime when fighting health disparities.

Learn more about the study here.

— M.S.

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