A Congregational Wellness Challenge: The Feasibility of a Holistic Church-Based Health Promotion Program in Durham, North Carolina
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Background: Church-based health promotion programs have been shown to be effective in improving health outcomes, but rarely do they approach wellness from a holistic standpoint. This is a missed opportunity for fuller integration within congregations. This study sought to assess and evaluate the feasibility of a holistic multi-site church-based health promotion program, through engagement, acceptability, and preliminary behavior change outcomes. Methods: This study utilized a concurrent mixed-methods approach in order to evaluate the “Congregational Wellness Challenge” (CWC), a pilot initiative that encouraged behavior change in three areas of holistic wellness: body, spirit, and soul, over six weeks. Participants were asked to complete one activity from each of the three categories every day for forty days, and congregations were encouraged to support those participating in the challenge. This study utilized a pre-post one-group design. Participants were surveyed at baseline and at six weeks about their health behaviors and opinions of the programs, as well as recording their behaviors on activity logs. Seventeen semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted eight weeks post-challenge. Results: The 39 participants in the study completed 64.2% of the activities during the challenge. There was a significant increase in several of the body health variables. The number of people reporting 30 minutes of physical activity about once a week, two or three times a week or every day, compared to (no times a week?) nearly doubled, from 43.5% to 82.6% (p=0.012). Vegetable and fruit intake also significantly increased, from 52.2% of people reporting eating at least 5 servings of vegetables and fruits daily to 100% of respondents (p=0.001). Frequency of reading for pleasure significantly increased, as did Scripture meditation, bible study, and singing to the Lord. Qualitative results indicated an overall acceptability of the program. Participants had a variety of motivations for joining, and gave valuable feedback on the importance of recording their activities. Conclusion: The CWC pilot initiative was feasible in a wide variety of churches, and future research should focus on the effectiveness of holistic wellness programs and improving implementation practices.
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