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Abstract

Obesity is a compelling health issue among African-Americans, who have the highest prevalence of excess weight among all ethnic and racial groups in the United States. This soaring obesity rate contributes to poor health outcomes and significantly inflates the risks for many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and certain forms of cancer. The literature provides evidence for the success of health programs aimed at promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles in African-American faith-based organizations, as the influential role of churches in African-American communities is well documented. However, few studies have investigated the criteria essential for improved efficiency of health interventions addressing the problem of obesity in the church-based environment.

This paper examines the sociocultural and environmental factors associated with enhanced efficiency of health-promotion programs to reduce obesity in African-American faith-based communities. The databases PubMed, CINAHL Complete, Cochrane Library, and PsycINFO were searched, and ten relevant articles published during the last five years were selected. The findings corroborate prior research about the instrumental role of churches to promote a healthy lifestyle and reduce obesity among African-Americans. We identify that a partnership between health educators and the community is crucial to achieve a high success rate in church settings. These results indicate that better success is achieved when the church leadership and churchgoers' input are integrated into the program’s design. Furthermore, health educators need to have a good grasp of the participants’ cultural perceptions, understanding, and expectations of obesity. We recommend that future researchers examine the cultural and spiritual strengths of these faith-based communities and the best strategies to use in order to achieve long-term weight loss.

 

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