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date: 19 September 2017

Faith Communities and the Potential for Health Promotion

Summary and Keywords

Faith communities play an important role in health promotion in some parts of the world, notably North America and sub-Saharan Africa. They appear to be less prominent in the United Kingdom, despite the fact that it is a high-income country with a well-developed national public health system. Faith communities can be instigators of health promotion (faith-based health promotion), or they can provide settings where other agencies can conduct health promotion (faith-placed health promotion). Key opportunities and barriers for faith-based and faith-placed health promotion can be found by drawing on examples from the United States and Africa.

Keywords: health promotion, faith communities, church, temple, mosque, gurdwara, synagogue, faith-based, public health initiatives, religion

Introduction to Faith Community Involvement in Health Promotion

A faith community has the potential and opportunity to support health-promoting activities. When such activities are conducted in and/or by a faith community, that is, a group of people who share a set of religious beliefs, they are generally termed either “faith-based” or “faith-placed” (DeHaven, Hunter, Wilder et al., 2004). Faith community premises include churches, mosques, synagogues, and temples—anywhere people of faith gather as a community. Faith-based health promotion (FBHP) includes events and/or programs initiated and organized by a faith community for its members or for outreach. On the other hand, a health-promoting initiative organized by an external group but held on faith community premises is referred to as faith-placed health promotion (FPHP) and often takes place on an ad hoc basis (DeHaven et al., 2004). Such programs are neither faith-initiated nor faith-led.

FBHP is an established practice in the United States and has been utilized successfully in Africa to support health goals. Surprisingly, despite a long-standing commitment to public health activities, including health promotion, in the United Kingdom (UK), FBHP partnerships appear to have been rare.

Faith-Based Health Promotion Initiatives

Faith-based health promotion initiatives in the United States are numerous and include, for example, promotion of healthy eating (Campbell, Hudson, Resnicow et al., 2007), a weight loss program (Yeary, Cornell, Prewitt et al., 2015), promotion of mammograms for breast cancer screening (Markens, Fox, Taub et al., 2002), HIV/AIDS prevention (Morgan, Green, & Boesten, 2013), and diabetes prevention (Davis-Smith, Boltri, Seale et al., 2007). Such initiatives have been found to work well in communities with a strong faith connection.

Examples in sub-Saharan Africa include the work of the World Health Organization (WHO), with faith-based organizations to develop initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS (WHO, 2007). In Ghana, faith-based institutions have promoted health in numerous ways, such as by facilitating mass health walks, screening, and talks by health experts on public health problems, and by providing information and social support for people with chronic diseases (de-Graft Aikins, Boynton & Atanga, 2010). Cardiac disease prevention has been another focus for faith-based organizations in Ghana (Abanilla, Huang, Shinners et al., 2011).

As mentioned earlier, there is less evidence of FBHP taking place in the UK. A research project was conducted between 2006 and 2009 to assist in exploring this gap (Fagan, 2009, Fagan, Kiger, & van Teijlingen, 2010; Fagan, Kiger, & van Teijlingen, 2012). Within the UK, based on the simple measure of life expectancy, Scotland is the least healthy of the four constituent countries (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland; Office for National Statistics, 2015) and therefore offered a useful setting. Among Scottish cities, Glasgow consistently has the lowest life expectancy, and Dundee consistently has the second-lowest (Glasgow Centre for Population Health, 2015). For an initial exploration of the topic, Dundee provided a more manageable setting to study, with a population of approximately 142,000 in 2008 compared with Glasgow’s 580,000 (General Record Office for Scotland, 2009).

A preliminary study (Anderson, Belch, Houston et al., 2005) had shown that respondents would favor affordable, organized health promotion programs in venues near their homes. They further suggested that health promotion be offered in bowling clubs, football clubs, or other places they already frequent that are “nonmedicalized.” Faith community premises fit this description. The study by Fagan et al. was undertaken in and around the city of Dundee to explore the views and experiences of faith leaders and health professionals to identify existing health promotion and healthy living activities in faith communities and to capture participants’ opinions of the feasibility of such initiatives, and it was reported in various publications (Fagan, 2009; Fagan et al., 2010, 2012). The study was conducted against a background of policymakers’ struggle to tackle health inequalities and a rising prevalence of obesity. An ongoing challenge was to identify strategies that could enable and support people to replace unhealthy lifestyle practices with health-promoting ones. The idea of exploring faith communities as a setting for this study also fit.

The study in Dundee began with a quantitative questionnaire survey (Fagan et al., 2010), followed by a qualitative phase (Fagan et al., 2012) guided by Glaser and Strauss’s principles of grounded theory (Strauss & Corbin, 1998). Using purposive and snowball sampling, the researchers collected data through interviews with members of faith communities and health promotion professionals. Because of the relatively small number of non-Christian ethnic minority faith communities in the Dundee area, data collection was extended via snowball sampling to non-Christian faith leaders in the Glasgow area, where there was an ample number of such communities.

The discussion that follows begins with a consideration of theological connections to health, drawing on some of the findings of the Scottish study described earlier. This will just be a “taster”—much more could be written about connections between God/spirituality and health, but that is not the focus here. The discussion then moves on to use examples from the United States and Africa, along with the Dundee study, in an examination of benefits and barriers to basing health promotion activities in faith communities, and it explores the potential effectiveness of faith community involvement in health promotion.

Theological Connections to Health and Its Promotion

In the Dundee study, participants’ responses contained elements that reflected on the theological justification for faith community participation in health promotion activities. In the questionnaire, Fagan et al. (2010) collected a range of comments addressing various theological links, including having a responsibility to care for the body and a holistic approach to a healthy mind, spirit, and body. Most faith leaders who responded appeared to see a place for health promotion in their faith community’s work. Most (88%) indicated that the health message had a place in their faith mission, and they indicated support for setting up a volunteer health committee (82%), personally promoting health and wellness to their congregation (78%), and placing health information in the newsletter (88%).

The qualitative phase of the study also revealed positive connections between faith communities and health promotion (Fagan et al., 2012). One interviewee remarked:

Our monthly healing service is quite explicitly tied to the commandment to go out and heal . . . I can’t see any grounds of objection. If I think it through theologically, it [the church], is not opposed to it [health promotion]. Certainly, it couldn’t become the first thing we preach about but it is, certainly, part of the commandments, that we take care of our bodies. So, it is in line with our teaching. But we have a role to play and we might even have a responsibility. (FC leader)

Another theological perspective pertained to a holistic approach. One pastor suggested that faith communities need to look at the whole person with spiritual needs, emotional needs, and psychological needs, all integrated in the one person.

There is a lot of psychological good, and mental health good coming from FBHP due to the benefit of a group of people are coming together and helping one another to do that . . . It’s community, and it’s making the community work. (FC leader)

A minister in an economically disadvantaged area said that caring for the whole person was an integral part of her ministry, and “. . . part of our faith, Jesus promotes health, it is our job, a part of our ministry to do so” (FC leader).

It was evident in this study that the idea of health promotion conducted within a faith community had gone unrecognized by most of these faith leaders and health professionals. While there appear to be multiple potential assets to build community capacity for health-promoting options, as yet health promotion experts and faith community leaders had tended not to recognize them.

One faith community leader offered the following possible explanation for why health groups had not included faith communities in their planning of HP:

When the National Health Service was established in 1946, there was never going to be any need for other agencies to contribute, when we had such an all-embracing service on offer. Now . . . as the NHS struggles to meet the demand placed upon it they seek out others. (FC leader)

A representative for Hindu and Sikh health issues spoke of the need to develop more programs with a view to expanding health promotion within the Indian communities (for Sikhs and Hindus) and to seek service delivery by the NHS to these faith communities. An Islamic faith community representative said that his community approved of including health promotion in their center of worship, explaining that there are various health promotion activities, notably the distribution of health promotion brochures around Ramadan. In the past, the NHS had been involved in developing brochures specifically for such groups, who saw FBHP as a means to remove barriers to health services and promote better health for their members.

Thus, based on their responses, it appeared that the Dundee participants saw a connection between their religions and health promotion. It might be interesting to note that in Scotland, at the time Fagan et al. (2010, 2012) conducted their study, over 90% of the members of the participating Christian faith communities were of indigenous UK ancestral origins, with a growing number of immigrants, primarily from eastern Europe. Members of the non-Christian faith communities were of Indian-Asian or Middle Eastern origins (Fagan et al., 2012). Within the population of 5.3 million in Scotland, 54% declared themselves Christian in the 2011 census, a decrease of 11% from the 2001 census (National Records of Scotland, 2013); a further 1.4% of the population identified themselves as Muslim and less than 1% in total were Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh or Jewish (National Records of Scotland, 2013).

Benefits of Faith Community Health Promotion Activities

Faith communities have many assets that can enable them to develop and support FBHP, both within and outside formal partnerships. These assets include physical and human resources, communication networks, and an ethos of caring and commitment that fosters social inclusion.

Physical Resources

The most obvious physical resource associated with the faith community is usually space that can provide a venue for health promotion activities, located in an accessible place. Familiarity of place can be an attractive feature, especially for engaging members of ethnic minority groups, who can feel confident that their religious and cultural needs will be met sensitively, as has been found in the United States (Markens et al., 2002) and was suggested in a preliminary report in Scotland (Anderson, Belch, Houston et al., 2005). In addition, faith community premises are almost ubiquitous, existing in urban, suburban, rural, and remote locations, including places where health care premises may be lacking.

The Church of Scotland, for example, has branches throughout Scotland, from the Shetland Islands in the north to the Solway Firth in the south, with 1000 to 1500 church buildings (Fagan, 2009). In remote areas, often the faith community is the only communal resource. In Fagan et al.’s study, (2010, 2012), health promotion professionals viewed faith community premises as being suitable for health promotion programs because of the meeting hall where groups can gather, but also because such places often had features that made them accessible—car parking facilities, disabled access, distribution points for health-related material, and sometimes approved kitchens. Within a neighborhood, there may be no or little cost for people to reach the venue on foot or by public transport.

Campbell, Skovdal, and Gibbs (2011) have highlighted the important spaces provided by the widespread presence of faith community premises throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Such locations can be easily accessible settings where community members feel comfortable. For some purposes, however, there may be difficulties inherent in their use for promoting health promotion messages.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, in the United States, two faith communities (Agape Word Fellowship and Pleasant Grove United Methodist Church) share more than just their buildings for health promotion purposes; they also share their recreational facilities (Gladstone, 2015). In both cases, the sharing extends to members of the community who are not members of the faith community. This could be seen as benefiting both the faith communities, who may see it as a way to extend their reach, and health promotion, which can include both members and nonmembers of the faith community.

Human Resources

The delivery of health-related programs takes knowledge, organizational skill, and time. There is potential to access, mobilize, and, when necessary, train volunteers within faith communities to participate in health promotion programs. Many faith community leaders in Fagan et al. (2010, 2012) commented that faith community volunteers have a range of talents and backgrounds to draw from, such as active and retired professors, general practitioners, teachers, librarians, and homemakers. Faith community members and health professionals were both readily able to identify a role for volunteers in health promotion. Health professionals suggested that volunteers could help the National Health Service (NHS—the publicly funded health service of the United Kingdom [of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland]) staff check weights and heights in weight management programs or participate in peer-led programs and act as lay health promoters, training for which could be supported or provided by a local health authority. Some volunteers within faith communities could also provide child care services and transportation. On the Isle of Skye, for instance, the Church of Scotland Guild provided funding for a transportation link for those in isolated areas.

In South Carolina, a project successfully brought together human resources from African American faith communities and health promotion professionals (Abara, Coleman, Fairchild et al., 2015) to provide HIV/AIDS services. These resources included pastors, care team members, the congregation, and administrative and financial staff. This project, known as F.A.I.T.H. (Project Fostering AIDS Initiatives That Heal), demonstrated the benefits of such partnering. Several factors contributed to its success. For example, people from the participating faith communities developed and proposed their own prevention strategies, and some care team members came from the faith community’s membership, which gave the faith communities a sense of ownership of the project. Skills acquired by the faith community members remained with the community, increasing the likelihood of sustainability of the project.

Communication and Organizational Networks

Communication and organizational networks within faith communities have the potential to extend the reach of health promotion, while the capacity of those networks may also be extended through their participation in health promotion activities. In the project reported by Abara et al. (2015), for example, the faith communities gained knowledge of, and established partnerships with, various AIDS agencies, as well as among other faith communities with needs similar to their own,

Faith communities have potential to publicize health messages and identify faith community leaders or other lay members who, once provided with appropriate training, can advise on local health services or convey information about HP activities. Women’s groups within a faith community especially may achieve a ripple effect for people within and outside the faith community (Fagan, 2009). Thus, faith communities have potential for advertising health promotion programs and reaching a wide target area.

Many faith community members in Fagan et al. (2012) had experience of organizational involvement within the faith community and/or the wider community. Their skills and experience were recognized as being transferable to the initiation and development of health promotion programs. Many faith communities were networked with each other, regionally and nationally. Sikh gurdwaras, for example, were associated with a wider national Indian Health Association. Such contacts strengthened the developing structure of health promotion programs.

In Fagan et al. (2010, 2012), a questionnaire respondent and several interviewees pointed out that faith communities have long been an integral presence in the local community in Scotland and have well-established communities and communication networks. These include paper and electronic newsletters and community networks at local and national levels, central display points and bulletin boards in faith communities, and, perhaps best of all, word of mouth. All of these could potentially facilitate communication regarding health promotion.

Campbell et al. (2011) noted that in sub-Saharan Africa, faith communities often represent the most well-established community networks in communities that are vulnerable to AIDS, which means they have the potential to have a wide influence.

Social Support

The spaces mentioned earlier as physical resources are often also social spaces. When a group forms for a health purpose, familiarity of place and/or people can engender social support, promote positive mental health, and reduce social exclusion. Fagan et al. (2010, 2012) reported that both faith community leaders and health professionals agreed that faith community-based health promotion has potential social benefits. Thus, the potential benefits can work both ways, with health promotion activities contributing to social support, and social support encouraging the health promotion message.

The Dundee study (Fagan et al., 2010, 2012) revealed a perception among many health promotion professionals that faith communities are attended primarily by middle-aged, middle-income families. Faith leaders, in contrast, reported a variety of ages, social classes, occupations, and ethnicities within their faith community, which implies a range of potential health promotion target groups. Many faith community members reside in low-income housing areas where many health promotion programs may be particularly relevant. In particular, faith communities can be good places to reach the elderly, who often have both physical and mental health needs.

Examples of social support activities cited by Ayton, Manderson, Smith et al. (2015) include craft groups, youth groups, homework clubs, bible studies, playgroups, and mothers’ groups, and health promotion may potentially be integrated into many of these. In some cases, volunteers from the faith community may provide social and emotional support for individuals in the form of mentoring, which could incorporate health promotion messages as appropriate.

In the United States, Newlin, Dyess, Allard et al. (2012) reported that in studies of FBHP among black American diabetics, social support offered a promising component of the interventions reviewed. Wang, Lee, Hart et al. (2013) in Baltimore, Maryland, noted the central role played by the faith communities’ social support networks and the strong social influence they have on members. These features make them attractive as settings for the delivery of health promotion interventions.

In Africa, too, social support has been found to have positive potential for health promotion, as was noted by Campbell et al. (2011). However, in some cases this comes with “strings attached.”

Expansion of Services

A recurrent theme among faith leaders in the Fagan et al. research studies (2010, 2012) was an interest in expanding the faith community’s ministry beyond its walls to the wider community, rather than connecting only with those who profess membership of that congregation. One faith community leader envisaged that a partnership with public health could build relationships between local people and health care professionals. He reflected on changes in society, particularly regarding relationships that once existed between the faith community and the local medical practitioner. He and others felt that FBHP could still be a partnership relationship with great potential. Health professionals supported this approach as a way to reach those in and out of the faith community who are at risk, supporting efforts to address health inequalities. This idea represents an expansion of the faith community “services,” using health promotion as a vehicle to carry it.

An arrangement from the other direction sees the expansion of health promotion through faith community organizations and networks. This is exemplified in Africa by the World Health Organization (WHO, 2007), which has an extensive partnership with faith-based organizations in the promotion of health. In some cases, this is a global partnership incorporating efforts from developed countries such as the United States. A particularly strong example is the cooperative work on AIDS/HIV prevention (Campbell et al., 2011).

Similar types of expansion have taken place in the United States. For example, faith communities have extended their reach into health and voluntary sector partnerships, and the American Public Health Association has expanded its reach via faith community networks since 1996 (American Public Health Association, 2017).

Barriers to Basing Health Promotion Activities in Faith Communities

Alongside the benefits of faith communities as settings for HP activities, there are potential barriers that may stand in the way. Such barriers may arise from either side and will be addressed in similar categories to the benefits.

Physical and Human Resources Barriers

While both physical and human faith community resources for participation in health promotion have many positive features, as has been described, real or potential barriers also need to be considered. Possibly the simplest barrier is invisibility. That is, health promotion professionals may not see faith community resources as being appropriate to their needs, and, in turn, faith community members may not see their resources as being appropriate to the purposes of health promotion. For health professionals, the barrier may be something as simple as “we never thought of the faith community,” or for faith community leaders and members, a barrier may result from lack of knowledge of an appropriate contact person or group. Both of these barriers were acknowledged by participants in the Fagan et al. study (2012).

The suitability or otherwise of physical resources for health promotion should be fairly easy to identify, but the question regarding human resources may be more difficult to answer. Health promotion professionals and faith community members need to understand each other’s perspectives, skills, and experience. Participants in the Dundee study (Fagan et al., 2010, 2012) noted the issue of who would develop, organize, and operate the health promotion program. If faith community members are already organizing other things, it may be relatively easy to add health promotion, or it may be too much of a stretch. Health promotion professionals may find it difficult to adapt their usual plans to the faith community setting and personnel. Either way, competent and acceptable delivery will require good will from both parties and may depend on appropriate training, which is likely to have cost implications.

The need for training for HIV/AIDS health promotion in the Project F.A.I.T.H. initiative (Abara et al., 2015) in the southern United States was satisfied with the support of grant funding. In that project, the training was quite extensive and many-faceted and would not have been possible with only the financial resources of the faith community. Funding for training, along with other aspects of the project, was provided by a grant from the South Carolina General Assembly. While this state funding made the project possible, it also added a layer of administrative work in the form of monthly financial monitoring reports.

In Morgan et al.’s study (2013), one Islamic organization in Tanzania took on the aim of fighting HIV/AIDS by promoting Islamic values. Their activities included, among others, skill training for Muslim leaders and training of trainers for Muslim Family Health Life Education, all funded by the organization. In the same study, two other faith organizations, one Catholic and one Anglican, were totally donor funded (Morgan et al., 2013). It is evident that the need for such finding might constitute an insurmountable barrier in some situations.

In Burkina Faso, Campbell et al. (2011) found that many faith community leaders lacked both the vocabulary and confidence to talk about HIV/AIDS-related stigma and were further put off even trying because they feared the opposition of senior pastors. This finding implies that they needed appropriate training but would be unlikely to seek or accept it.

With regard to both physical and human resources, sustainability is an essential consideration. For an FBHP initiative developed as a fixed-term project, the gains made may be quickly lost when the project ends, if arrangements are not in place to sustain it with appropriate physical support and competent, appropriately trained workers.

Barriers Associated with Communication/Networks, Social Support, and Expansion of Services

Barriers in these three categories are discussed together here because they are intertwined and hard to separate. At a basic level, such barriers may arise if there is a lack of information or if health professionals misunderstand the faith community, or vice versa, if faith leaders have an essential misunderstanding of health and health promotion. Such misunderstanding may well lead to confusion of messages, communication of misinformation, or transmission of messages that are unacceptable to one party or the other.

Health professionals in the Dundee study (Fagan et al., 2012) stated that there may be perceived sensitivities or cautions impeding the initiation of faith-health partnerships. These included a concern that faith communities may have additional motives for becoming engaged with health promotion, using it as an opportunity for evangelizing or otherwise promoting their own causes, such as increasing faith community membership or attendance.

This type of concern has appeared in other contexts as well. Kegler, Hall, and Kiser (2010), in a study involving representatives from faith–health teams from over 20 states of the United States, identified several such barriers. These barriers included competition between organizations; racism; discomfort of health representatives and the wider community with faith communities; differences in agendas; difficulty finding a common language; and, because the health organization might be a government agency, concern about maintaining “separation of church and state,” a concept basic to Americans’ understanding of their constitution.

The Dundee study (Fagan et al., 2010, 2012) noted that when new projects were introduced, a minority of faith community leaders and members expressed reluctance about FBHP, or detected reluctance among their colleagues or faith community elders. There was some feeling that the NHS, more than the faith community, wanted it and that it was the NHS’s responsibility, not the faith community’s.

Incompatibility Between Faith Communities and Health Promotion

With respect to the potential for expansion of services, an inhibiting factor that may be the incompatibility between the health promotion messages health professionals want to transmit and the beliefs or traditions inherent in a particular faith. This difficulty appeared in the Dundee study (Fagan et al., 2012) and has been reported in numerous contexts in the United States and Africa.

In Fagan et al. (2012), faith community representatives spoke of their concern to ensure that the health programs they undertook would not conflict with their faith beliefs and that they would be free to maintain a respectful faith and moral code. Promotion of information on sexual health, for example, may not be compatible with certain faith beliefs, such as the Islamic and some Christian faiths. Both faith community leaders and health professionals recognized the need to engage carefully with each other, acknowledging the possible conflicts that could arise between faith and secular topics.

Such conflicts were particularly evident in the study by Morgan et al. (2013), which looked at three faith-based NGOs in Tanzania. Specifically, a problem emerged regarding promoting condom use as a form of HIV/AIDS prevention. Morgan et al. found that within the Muslim faith organization, condom use was permitted only within marriage, while in both the Catholic and Anglican organizations, it was not permitted at all. Government policy was to promote the use of condoms, so this put it at odds with the faith-based organizations, for which this was not an option.

Campbell et al. (2011) investigated HIV/AIDS-related stigma in sub-Saharan Africa. Their work contains an interesting discussion of the problems related to associating HIV/AIDS with sin and punishment. Tied up with these problems were the faith community’s views on male dominance and female subservience, which meant women were under strong pressure to give in to males sexually.

Resistance does not always mean that a health topic cannot be presented to a faith community. Reports of needing to overcome resistance were recounted in Fagan’s work (Fagan, 2009, Fagan et al., 2012) regarding the introduction of a health-promoting message. One leader in the Church of Scotland Women’s Guild reported that when the theme of caring for the body was introduced, there were pockets of resistance because it was quite a move away from their “normal themes” and there was a “reluctance to dwell on the body,” which “wasn’t quite right for church folk.” This, however, was a much less serious conflict than those mentioned earlier and was much less likely to cause intractable problems between health promotion professionals and faith community leaders and members when agreeing on agendas for health promotion activities.

Secular health promotion agencies joining in partnerships with faith communities face the need to avoid promoting a specific faith, and negotiations around this may be sensitive. In the Dundee study (Fagan et al., 2012), health professionals were also aware of the need to direct their resources according to their strategic plan and to ensure that the right evidence-based messages were presented. These are all very real problems and can require sophisticated negotiating skills.

Effectiveness of Faith Community Involvement in Health Promotion

FBHP programs have proven to be effective and are working in the United States, Africa, and elsewhere, with a range of programs taking place within faith communities through volunteers or paid staff, or in partnership with outside agencies. While challenges have been identified, there is strong evidence for FBHP’s value and feasibility. The U.S. experience for over three decades indicates that FBHP has enabled health promotion programs to reach a broad population, reduce health disparities, and incorporate spiritual and cultural elements for the population, especially in underserved areas for a range of ethnic groups, including African Americans and Hispanics (National Cancer Institute, 2004; Gutierrez, Devia, Weiss et al., 2014). In Africa, the WHO’s partnership with faith communities, such as in the area of HIV/AIDS, has been similarly active and effective. Along with offering health improvement interventions, trained and peer-led health counseling through FBHP can promote a variety of health behaviors by prompting change and supporting maintenance (Fallon, Bopp, & Webb, 2012; Dodani et al., 2014). Research by Fallon and colleagues showed that peer-led health counseling proved efficacious, with increased positive changes in various health indicators (Fallon et al., 2012). The Dundee case study and experiences in the United States and Africa show that this form of health promotion can provide organizational support, comfort in speaking to faith community members about health, and positive influence of faith leaders, all of which have enhanced the potential and success of faith-based health promotion within faith communities.


Effective and sustainable FBHP and/or FPHP activities can be achieved through partnerships that build capacity for health within a community. This is possible through the development of knowledge, skills, and commitment of health professionals, religious leaders, lay health promoters, and individuals; through structures, systems, and leadership; and through expansion of support and infrastructure for health promotion in locally based organizations that encourage and support people in making healthy personal choices (Smith, Tang, & Nutbeam, 2006). The introduction of FBHP in the United States and other countries illustrates another option for partnerships between faith communities and health professionals to advance health goals and at the same time provide social capital. To generate a conducive environment, health professionals and faith communities should consider their own and each other’s roles in health promotion and the goals that underlie their respective agendas. Further research focusing on the development of partnerships between health professionals and faith groups may uncover why such partnerships are scarce in the UK and how they might be encouraged to develop. At present, FBHP may be a field in health promotion where Europe can profitably learn from both the United States and Africa.

Further Reading

Ayton, D., Manderson, L., Smith, B. J., & Carey, G. (2015). Health promotion in local churches in Victoria: an exploratory study. Health and Social Care in the Community, 24(6), 728–738.Find this resource:

Campbell, C., Skovdal, M., & Gibbs, A. (2011). Creating social spaces to tackle AIDS-related stigma: Reviewing the role of church groups in Sub-Saharan Africa. AIDS Behaviour, 15(6), 1204–1219.Find this resource:

Kegler, M. C., Hall, S. M., & Kiser, M. (2010). Facilitators, challenges, and collaborative activities in faith and health partnerships to address health disparities. Health Education and Behavior, 37(5), 665–679.Find this resource:

Levin, J. (2013). Engaging the faith community for public health advocacy: An agenda for the Surgeon General. Journal of Religion and Health, 52(2), 368–385.Find this resource:

Morgan, R., Green, A., & Boesten. (2013). Aligning faith based and national HIV/AIDS prevention responses? Factors influencing the HIV/AIDS prevention policy process and response of faith-based NGOs in Tanzania. Health Policy and Planning, 29(3), 313–322.Find this resource:

Newlin, K., Dyess, S. M., Allard, E., Chase, S., & Melkus, G. D. (2012). A methodological review of faith-based health promotion literature: Advancing the science to expand delivery of diabetes education to Black Americans. Journal of Religion and Health, 51(4), 1075–1097.Find this resource:

Wang, H. E., Lee, M., Hart, A., Summers, A.C., Anderson Steeves, E., & Gittelsohn, J. (2013). Process evaluation of healthy bodies, healthy souls: A church-based health intervention program in Baltimore City. Health Education Research, 28(3), 329–404.Find this resource:


Abanilla, P. K. A., Huang, K-Y, Shinners, D., Levy, A., Ayernor, K., de-Graft Aikins, A., & Ogedegbe, O. (2011). Cardiovascular disease prevention in Ghana: Feasibility of a faith-based organizational approach. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 89, 648–656.Find this resource:

Abara, W., Coleman, J. D., Fairchild, A., Gaddist, B., & White, J. (2015). A faith-based community partnership to address HIV/AIDS in the southern United States: Impementation, challenges, and lessons learned. Journal of Religion and Health, 34, 122–133.Find this resource:

American Public Health Association. (2017).

Anderson, A., Belch, J., Houston, G., Kirk, A., Struthers, A. D., van Teijlingen, E., & Williams, B. (2005). Healthforce—development and feasibility of a peer-led, bodyweight and lifestyle management programme. In National Prevention Research Initiative Awards (Phase 1) 2005. London: Medical Research Council. Retrieved September 10, 2016, from this resource:

Ayton, D., Manderson, L., Smith, B. J., & Carey, G. (2015). Health promotion in local churches in Victoria: An exploratory study. Health and Social Care in the Community, 24(6), 728–738.Find this resource:

Campbell, C., Skovdal, M., & Gibbs, A. (2011). Creating social spaces to tackle AIDS-related stigma: Reviewing the role of church groups in Sub-Sahara Africa. AIDS Behaviour, 15(6), 1204–1219.Find this resource:

Campbell, M. K., Hudson, M. A., Resnicow, K., Blakeney, N., Paxton, A., & Blaskin, M. (2007). Church-based health promotion interventions: Evidence and lessons learned. The Annual Review of Public Health, 28(1), 213–234.Find this resource:

Davis-Smith, Y. M., Boltri, J. M., Seale, J. P., Shellenberger, S., Blalock, T., & Tobin, B. (2007). Implementing a diabetes prevention program in a rural African-American church. Journal of the National Medical Association, 99(4), 440–446.Find this resource:

DeHaven, M. J., Hunter, I. B., Wilder, L, Walton, J. W., & Berry, J. (2004). Health programs in faith-based organizations: Are they effective? American Journal of Public Health, 94(6), 1030–1036.Find this resource:

Dodani, S., Beayler, I., Lewis, J., & Sowders, L. A. (2014). HEALS Hypertension Control Program: Training church members as program leaders. Open Cardiovascular Medicine Journal, 8, 121–127.Find this resource:

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Fagan, D.M., Kiger, A., & van Teijlingen E. (2010). A survey of faith leaders concerning health promotion and the level of healthy living activities occurring in faith communities in Scotland. Global Health Promotion, 17(4), 15–23.Find this resource:

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