Journal of Religion and Health

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 148–160 | Cite as

A Study of Rural Church Health Promotion Environments: Leaders’ and Members’ Perspectives

  • Randi M. Williams
  • Karen Glanz
  • Michelle C. Kegler
  • Ernest DavisJr.
Original Paper


This study examined the beliefs of church leaders about health and associations between these beliefs and the church health promotion environment (CHPE). Perceptions of the CHPE by leaders and members of the same churches were also compared. Interviews were conducted with pastors (n = 40) and members (n = 96) of rural churches. They were Baptist (60%), and 57.5% were predominantly White, while 42.5% were Black. Leaders’ beliefs regarding talking about health topics in sermons were associated with the presence of health messages in the church. There was also a significant association between leaders’ beliefs about members’ receptivity to health messages and the presence of messages in the church. Leaders’ and members’ perceptions of the CHPE were discordant. While some leaders’ beliefs may be related to the CHPE, other factors may explain why programs and policies exist in some churches and not others.


Church-based health promotion Church leaders Church members Church environment 



The authors thank members of the Emory Prevention Research Center’s Community Advisory Board for their ongoing guidance of this project. We also thank JK Barnette and the local interviewers (Carl Gluckert and Tina Phipps), the Southwest Georgia Cancer Coalition and study participants for their contributions to this research. Funding for this research was made possible by cooperative agreement # U48 DP 000043 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


  1. Alcantara, I., Kegler, M., Escoffery, C., Scanlin, K., Morris, C., Reynolds, P., et al. (2007). Exploring the influence of faith-based organizations on physical activity in rural Southwest Georgia. Washington DC: American Public Health Association Meeting.Google Scholar
  2. Ammerman, A., Corbie-Smith, G., St George, D. M., Washington, C., Weathers, B., & Jackson-Christian, B. (2003). Research expectations among African American church leaders in the PRAISE! project: A randomized trial guided by community-based participatory research. American Journal of Public Health, 93(10), 1720–1727.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Biener, L., Glanz, K., McLerran, D., Sorensen, G., Thompson, B., Basen-Engquist, K., et al. (1999). Impact of the working well trial on the worksite smoking and nutrition environment. Health Education and Behavior, 26(4), 478–494.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Campbell, M. K., Demark-Wahnefried, W., Symons, M., Kalsbeek, W. D., Dodds, J., Cowan, A., et al. (1999). Fruit and vegetable consumption and prevention of cancer: The Black Churches United for Better Health project. American Journal of Public Health, 89(9), 1390–1396.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Campbell, M. K., Hudson, M. A., Resnicow, K., Blakeney, N., Paxton, A., & Baskin, M. (2007a). Church-based health promotion interventions: Evidence and lessons learned. Annual Review of Public Health, 28, 213–234.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Campbell, M. K., James, A., Hudson, M. A., Carr, C., Jackson, E., Oakes, V., et al. (2004). Improving multiple behaviors for colorectal cancer prevention among African American church members. Health Psychology, 23(5), 492–502.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Campbell, M. K., Resnicow, K., Carr, C., Wang, T., & Williams, A. (2007b). Process evaluation of an effective church-based diet intervention: Body & soul. Health Education and Behavior, 34(6), 864–880.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Ellison, C. G., & Levin, J. S. (1998). The religion-health connection: Evidence, theory, and future directions. Health Education and Behavior, 25(6), 700–720.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kim, K. H., Linnan, L., Campbell, M. K., Brooks, C., Koenig, H. G., & Wiesen, C. (2006). The WORD (Wholeness, Oneness, Righteousness, Deliverance): A faith-based weight-loss program utilizing a community-based participatory research approach. Health Education and Behavior 0: 1090198106291985v1 (OnlineFirst pdf).Google Scholar
  10. Markens, S., Fox, S. A., Taub, B., & Gilbert, M. L. (2002). Role of Black churches in health promotion programs: Lessons from the Los Angeles Mammography Promotion in Churches Program. American Journal of Public Health, 92(5), 805–810.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. McLeroy, K. R., Bibeau, D., Steckler, A., & Glanz, K. (1988). An ecological perspective on health promotion programs. Health Education Quarterly, 15(4), 351–377.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Oexmann, M. J., Thomas, J. C., Taylor, K. B., O’Neil, P. M., Garvey, W. T., Lackland, D. T., et al. (2000). Short-term impact of a church-based approach to lifestyle change on cardiovascular risk in African Americans. Ethnicity and Disease, 10(1), 17–23.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Raviv, A., Raviv, A., & Reisel, E. (1990). Teachers and students: Two different perspectives?! Measuring social climate in the classroom. American Educational Research Journal, 27(1), 141–157.Google Scholar
  14. Resnicow, K., Campbell, M. K., Carr, C., McCarty, F., Wang, T., Periasamy, S., et al. (2004). Body and soul. A dietary intervention conducted through African-American churches. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 27(2), 97–105.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Resnicow, K., DiIorio, C., Soet, J. E., Ernst, D., Borrelli, B., & Hecht, J. (2002). Motivational interviewing in health promotion: It sounds like something is changing. Health Psychology, 21, 444–451.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Resnicow, K., Jackson, A., Blissett, D., et al. (2005). Results of the healthy body healthy spirit trial. Health Psychology, 24, 339–348.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Resnicow, K., Jackson, A., Wang, T., et al. (2001). A motivational interviewing intervention to increase fruit and vegetable intake through Black churches: Results of the Eat for Life trial. American Journal of Public Health, 91, 1686–1693.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Resnicow, K., Wallace, D. C., Jackson, A., et al. (2000). Dietary change through African American churches: Baseline results and program description of the eat for life trial. Journal of Cancer Education, 15, 156–163.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. St. Louis University. (2004). St. Louis Church health survey. Center for Advanced Studies in Nutrition and Social Marketing. Retrieved August 2008, from
  20. Taylor, R. J., Ellison, C. G., Chatters, L. M., Levin, J. S., & Lincoln, K. D. (2000). Mental health services in faith communities: The role of clergy in black churches. Social Work, 45(1), 73–87.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. United States Department of Health and Human Services. (2005). Behavioral change consortium. National Institutes of Health.Google Scholar
  22. Yanek, L. R., Moy, T. F., & Becker, D. M. (2001). Comparison of food frequency and dietary recall methods in African-American women. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 101(11), 1361–1364.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Randi M. Williams
    • 1
  • Karen Glanz
    • 2
  • Michelle C. Kegler
    • 3
  • Ernest DavisJr.
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Oncology, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer CenterGeorgetown University Medical CenterWashingtonUSA
  2. 2.Schools of Medicine and NursingUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA
  3. 3.Emory Prevention Research Center, Rollins School of Public HealthEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  4. 4.Bethel African Methodist Episcopal ChurchAlbanyUSA

Personalised recommendations