Conceptualization of Health Among United Methodist Church Clergy in Western Kenya

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Georggi, Nicole A.


Proeschold-Bell, Rae Jean

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Clergy are a dynamic group of the population: they point people to God, navigate social and spiritual waters, provide advice and guidance, and teach and visit parishioners. Research has shown that caregivers often neglect their health to tend to the health and well-being of others. Because of their unique role in society, the health and well-being of the clergy themselves is an important subject of research. While clergy health is a growing topic of interest in the Western world, very little is known. The few studies conducted on the health of clergy have found that in some areas, this group is less healthy than the general population due to their hectic schedules, lacking social support, and job-related stressors. With the exception of the United States, Canada, and Great Britain, almost nothing has been studied internationally regarding clergy health. In Africa, religion is known to play an important role in the daily life of its inhabitants; however, the overall well-being of clergy including mental, spiritual, and physical health remains under-studied. To date, nothing has been reported regarding the health of pastors in Kenya. This exploratory study sought to better understand how United Methodist Church (UMC) clergy in Western Kenya conceptualize health and how that relates to their health seeking behaviors.


This study partnered with religion and public health researchers at Moi University in Eldoret, Kenya, and utilized qualitative methodology to gather information on the conceptualization of health among UMC clergy in Western Kenya. One hour in-depth oral interviews with seven clergy and two Associate District Superintendents and four focus group discussions were conducted with a total of 52 United Methodist Church clergy in Nyanza Province, Kenya in June and July 2012.


All transcripts were entered into QSR International's NVivo 10 qualitative data analysis software and coded. Two members of the research team coded an in-depth oral interview and focus group transcription to ensure replicability. A combination of Grounded Theory (GT) analysis and Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to interpret the data.


UMC clergy define health holistically as the complete well-being of a person in their mind, body, and spirit. Indigenous cultural traditions are still present within the UMC; pastors and parishioners will seek care from a magician rather than a medical doctor if they believe the disease stems from evil spirits. Religious beliefs relate to health seeking behavior in one of two ways: first, clergy believe God alone heals, and thereby view medical seeking behavior as unnecessary and second, clergy believe God alone heals, but view the doctor as a permitted conduit of healing. This knowledge learned from this exploratory study may help inform future interventions.






Georggi, Nicole A. (2012). Conceptualization of Health Among United Methodist Church Clergy in Western Kenya. Master's thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.