The impact that religious faith has on improving physical well-being is set to be evaluated by a group of researchers from the University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) in a study that will test its effects against obesity and diabetes. The investigators, who believe that faith promotes spiritual health, will seek to understand its influence on the body as well by working with pastors at churches in southern Dallas County.
The five-year UNTHSC research project is collaborating with churches to understand the effectiveness of education for the prevention of obesity and diabetes that include faith-based components. The investigators will focus particularly on African-American women, since statistics demonstrate their higher probability to suffer from obesity and diabetes than Caucasian women. In addition, studies reveal that they are also more likely to feel a stronger influence from their church in their daily lives.
“We hypothesized that if we included some faith-based concepts and involved their pastor, that this might improve their motivation and lead to better outcomes,” said Heather Kitzman-Ulrich, PhD, Assistant Professor of Behavioral and Community Health and Principal Investigator.
As part of the project, a 16-week curriculum was written with the assistance of an advisory group of pastors and their wives, integrating not only faith-based elements, but also sermons delivered by the pastors into The Diabetes Prevention Program. In addition, the program also includes weekly goals, scripture, participant and facilitator materials, prayer, and take-home faith activities.
Rev. George King of Cities of Refuge-Dallas, who is the pastor of one of the twelve churches involved in the study and helped write the curriculum, believes that faith helps patients being motivated. “Our goal is not to make this feel like a program they are going through, but a lifestyle change they are making with the support of their pastors and fellow church members,” he said, about the project that was funded by a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Health (NIH) and conducted by the Texas Center for Health Disparities within UNTHSC.