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The Development of Health for Hearts United: A Longitudinal Church-based Intervention to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk in Mid-life and Older African Americans

Penny A. Ralston, Iris Young-Clark, Catherine Coccia


This article describes Health for Hearts United, a longitudinal church-based inter­vention to reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk in mid-life and older African Americans. Using community-based par­ticipatory research (CBPR) approaches and undergirded by both the Socio-ecological Theory and the Transtheoretical Model of Behavior Change, the 18-month interven­tion was developed in six north Florida churches, randomly assigned as treatment or comparison. The intervention was framed around three conceptual components: awareness building (individual knowledge development); clinical learning (individual and small group educational sessions); and efficacy development (recognition and sustainability). We identified three lessons learned: providing consistency in program­ming even during participant absences; providing structured activities to assist health ministries in sustainability; and addressing changes at the church level. Recommenda­tions include church-based approaches that reflect multi-level CBPR and the collabora­tive faith model.

Ethn Dis. 2017;27(1):21- 30; doi:10.18865/ed.27.1.21.


Cardiovascular Disease; Churchbased Health; African Americans; Longitudinal Intervention; Community-Based Participatory Research; Older Adults

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ISSN: 1049-510X (print) | ISSN: 1945-0826 (online)
©2017 International Society on Hypertension in Blacks