Be Our Voice Blog
Monday, March 12th, 2012
Raising Our Voices Together: Faith Communities and Healthcare Professionals as Allies Against Childhood Obesity
Churches. Synagogues. Mosques. These and other houses of worship are present just about everywhere in the US. More than just sacred places, they are often powerful forces for change in their communities, and the role these religious congregations play in local communities can make them ideal allies for healthcare professionals working to reverse the trend of childhood obesity .
Faith communities have long been a part of movements for social change, and their leaders are often well-respected members of the community. Most religions are founded on doctrines that emphasize not only caring for the spirit, but also caring for the body. Faith communities serve whole families with programs for both adults and children. And, perhaps most importantly for those working to combat childhood obesity, these houses of worship are often located in the heart of the neighborhoods where their members live and work.
The above characteristics make faith communities excellent partners, and venues, for obesity outreach efforts. Many are already involved as individual institutions or as groups:
- Solid Rock United Methodist Church in Philadelphia provides people in the neighborhood with a safe place for indoor exercise, line dancing, basketball, and an obesity program for children.
- The Seventh Day Adventist denomination as a whole focuses on healthy living and offers a comprehensive website of health resources.
- Jewish Community Centers (JCC’s) are involved in JCC Grows, a healthy food and hunger-relief program with an emphasis on community gardens.
- On the south side of Chicago, a Muslim community is leading the Campaign for Health, Wellness, and Healing, which focuses on food justice, health education, and an alternative business model for corner stores.
- Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon offers food policy resources for faith communities, and helps to link them with local farms.
Healthcare professionals interested in advocating for childhood obesity policy changes can engage with faith communities in many ways. While creativity is vital to meet local needs, useful resources are already available. Below are sample resources for use and adaptation:
- The State and County Obesity Factsheets produced by Be Our Voice, which include information on county health rankings and obesity statistics, can be used to start a dialogue within a congregation about obesity issues.
- The Michigan Steps Up! Faith-Based Group created a Spirit, Mind & Body: Eat Well, Live Well Event Planning Guide that can be used and adapted to ensure that healthy food options are always available at faith-based events.
- The San Diego County Childhood Obesity Initiative offers resources for faith communities such as policy templates.
- The Let’s Move! Faith and Communities Toolkit has resources and guidance for faith and community-based organizations.
Healthcare professionals and faith communities can make excellent partners and collaborate on education, advocacy, outreach, and policy to improve child health and reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity.