preach to church members, rather
involves them in setting goals
"Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good
health, just as your soul prospers." (3 John 1:2)
Dr. Sara Wilcox of the Arnold School’s Department of Exercise Science
is engaging a group of AME churches in eastern and central South
Carolina to promote physical activity and healthy eating among
If the five-year program is successful, the church will encourage use
of it by all of the denomination's 476,000 members in the state.
Wilcox said the program, titled "Faith, Activity, and Nutrition
(FAN)," also involves scientists at Clemson University and the Medical
University of South Carolina.
Wilcox is principal investigator; co-investigators include Marilyn
Laken (MUSC), Allen W. Parrott (AME church), Marge Condrasky (Clemson),
Ruth Saunders (USC), Cheryl Addy (USC), Marsha Dowda (USC), and Rebecca
Evans (AME Church).
Wilcox has worked on similar research involving the AME Church and
the new program will build on that relationship.
She describes FAN as a faith-based effort that gives church leaders
an opportunity to do some self-assessment of their churches and "select
things they can do to help members eat healthier and be more physically
The study also uses a community-based participatory research approach
that engaged church members in the design of the program from the start.
The study will initially involve 60 churches and 1,600 members. The
study has begun in the Kingstree and Georgetown areas with churches that
belong to the Palmetto Conference, the largest subdivision of the state
church with approximately 50,000 local members. The program will also
begin in Columbia area in the next several months.
The effort is culturally and spiritually sensitive and aimed at
helping church leaders incorporate health living guidelines and
practices into church activities.
One example, Wilcox says, is that churches may decide that fresh
fruits and vegetables be on the menu at any church activity that
Wilcox said the AME Church and other African-American denominations
have undertaken new responsibilities for the health of their members
because of their unique role in the black community.
The reasons for that include the wide health disparities in the black
community along with an increasing need for guidance in helping people
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, an arm of the National
Institutes of Health, is funding the research.
For more information on the program, visit the program website at