In the United States, African-Americans and Latinos have substantially higher burdens and poorer outcomes than whites on a number of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, HIV, and obesity.
Many complex factors contribute to this disparity, including reduced access to quality healthcare and reduced utilization of healthcare including important primary preventive services. One option for addressing this disparity is through partnerships between public health providers and faith-based organizations. These partnerships can increase the capacity of health departments and the broader public health community to access underserved populations.
Together with researchers from the RAND Corporation and community partners from the Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches, CUNY SPH Professor Karen Flórez helped develop a multi-ethnic, multi-denominational faith and public health partnership in South Los Angeles to address health disparities through community-based participatory research (CBPR). A report detailing the results was published in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.
The report notes that a diverse staff with deep ties in the faith community, both among researchers and the primary community partner agency, was key to recruiting African-American and Latino churches. Involvement by local health department and community health clinic personnel provided technical expertise and support regarding health data and clinical resources. Selecting a health issue (obesity) that affected all subgroups (e.g., African-Americans and Latinos, women and men, children and adults) garnered high enthusiasm among partners, as did including some innovative aspects such as a text/e-mail messaging component and a community mapping exercise to identify issues for advocacy.
The researchers found that building partnerships through which multiple CBPR initiatives can be done offers efficiencies and sustainability in terms of programmatic activities, though long-term infrastructure grants, institutional support, and non-research funding from local foundations and health systems are likely needed.
“This study highlights the importance of working with community partners to develop effective interventions for vulnerable communities, but also all the complex factors that must be addressed if we want to ensure that public health interventions have long-lasting changes in these same communities,”Flórez says.
Derose KP, Williams MV, Branch CA, Flórez KR, Hawes-Dawson J, Mata MA, Oden CW, Wong EC. A Community-Partnered Approach to Developing Church-Based Interventions to Reduce Health Disparities Among African-Americans and Latinos. J Racial Ethn Health Disparities. 2018 Aug 17.