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Missouri: Kansas City Ministers Preach Gospel of Good Health

November 4, 2013

This article was reported by the Charlotte Observer.

The Charlotte Observer recently reported that HIV/AIDS activist Rev. Eric Williams and University of Missouri-Kansas City Psychology Professor Jannette Berkley-Patton received an $850,000, three-year federal research grant to expand Kansas City Faith, a healthy living intervention in African-American churches. Kansas City Faith incorporated the success that Williams and Berkley-Patton had in separate, faith-based HIV/AIDS health interventions.

Williams began educating his congregation about HIV/AIDS in 1990, a time when discussing HIV/AIDS from the pulpit was largely taboo in African-American churches. His work expanded into development of the Calvary Community Outreach Network, a health awareness action plan. His church also opened the Calvary Community Wellness Center to serve as his community's "YMCA." Williams noted that many African Americans have been reluctant to trust research studies and doctors, partly because of the 1932-1972 Tuskegee, Ala., research study that claimed to offer healthcare but actually left syphilis untreated among study participants.

Berkeley-Patton began wellness work through Taking It to the Pews, an HIV/AIDS initiative that used grant money to develop culturally and religiously appropriate HIV/AIDS education tools for African-American churches. Local churches and community boards supplemented the Taking It to the Pews toolkit with additional tactics and materials to reach African-American church goers. The initiative paid for HIV screenings, videos promoting healthy choices, and Sunday school games to build HIV/AIDS knowledge and awareness. Approximately 30 Kansas City and 10 Montgomery, Ala., churches have adopted the toolkit.

The success of Williams and Berkeley-Patton's past HIV/AIDS work and community surveys suggested churches would be receptive to an expanded connection to educate members about other diseases that affect African Americans disproportionately. Kansas City Faith aimed to encourage African Americans to see their doctors regularly, eat a healthier diet, and exercise regularly.

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