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Can Churches Reduce Childhood Obesity?

A researcher, preacher and health advocate believes that faith-based advocacy can be a positive influence on youngsters who eat too much.

I received this article a few days ago by author, Michael Minor, entitled, Faith-Based Advocacy to End Childhood Obesity: Using Evidence-Based Information (PDF) from the February 2012 issue of Childhood Obesity.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), childhood obesity has tripled in the past 30 years. This author’s idea is largely untested, but with a consistent rise in childhood obesity, maybe it’s time we ask for help in unconventional ways.

For Minor, the idea to incorporate health education in religious-based communities started back in 1997 when he and another pastor collaborated on an idea to “foster the Kingdom of Christ on earth and to train young people.” This motto led to incorporating health and wellness and encouraging church members to host annual health fairs. The fairs eventually turned into a more organized way to incorporate health into the everyday ministry of the church.

After years of working out logistics and adding leadership training for the health advocates, in 2007, childhood obesity was given special attention. Minor and his committee believe, “If the church did better, then the family would do better. If the family did better, then the children would do better.”

This idea was called the Mississippi Model and in time began to promote not only healthy eating, but walking groups, community gardens and other forms of physical activity.

In 2010, the Mississippi Model was presented at National Baptist Convention, USA Inc. (NBCUSA) churches and received the green light to proceed under a new name.

The National Baptist Congress Health Outreach and Prevention Education Health Initiative (H.O.P.E) had a goal to make the NBCUSA the healthiest denomination in the U.S. over the next 10 years.

While research is still being conducted via qualitative and quantitative research methods, I don’t think it’s too early to ask the question, should faith-based communities make health and wellness a part of their ministry?

If they do, what impact do you think it would or could have on the health status of our children?

Darliene Howell March 19, 2012 at 01:12 AM
I would like to recommend the free NAAFA Child Advocacy ToolkitSM (CATK) and other written guidelines/resources to assist you looking at programs. A Yale Rudd Center report reviewed existing research on weight stigma in children and adolescents, with attention to the nature and extent of weight bias toward obese youths and to the primary sources of stigma in their lives, including peers, educators, and parents. As a result of weight bias and discrimination, obese children suffer psychological, social, and health-related consequences. http://www.yaleruddcenter.org/resources/upload/docs/what/bias/StigmaObesityChildrensHealth.pdf Rebecca Puhl of the Rudd Center further brings to light the stigmatization of large children in the following article. http://www.obesityaction.org/magazine/oacnews7/Childhood%20Obesity%20and%20Stigma.pdf The NAAFA Child Advocacy Toolkit shows how Health At Every Size® takes the focus off weight and directs it to healthful eating and enjoyable movement. It addresses the bullying, building positive self-image and eliminating stigmatization of large children. The CATK lists resources available to parents, educators or caregivers for educational materials, curriculum and programming that is beneficial for all children. It can be found at: http://issuu.com/naafa/docs/naafa_childadvocacy2011combined_v04?viewMode=magazine&mode=embed
Craig Olson March 21, 2012 at 02:07 AM
There are many good things churches can do. But what should they be doing? Priority one, it seems to me, should be advancing the kingdom of Christ. I am not sure how reducing obesity fits into that plan. Perhaps that is the role of the family. To the extent the church can be supportive, that is fine. But it shouldn't take time and resources away from building the kingdom. http://bit.ly/wOeEea

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