Title : Aging while black: Understanding the role of faith & culture to address health disparities among African Americans across the life span
There is a profound relationship between faith and health particularly in the African-American population. Studies have found that African-Americans are one of the most “religious” racial and ethnic groups in the US. Through the development and utilization of effective mobilization and partnership with faith institutions across the country, there is a tremendous opportunity to replicate and implement evidence-based programs. This session aims to help public health organizations and healthcare professionals understand the role and impacts of culture particularly faith among African-Americans and how to use this dynamic to; Address a variety of health disparities, social determinants of health, and health literacy.
African Americans continue to be disproportionately impacted by health conditions ranging from HIV/AIDS to Alzheimer’s to Diabetes. Rates of disease and deaths for many health problems in the AA community are consistently higher than other races. While a lack of awareness, access and utilization of health services is an issue, African-Americans continue to have strong religious beliefs and rely on their faith leader’s input on health decisions and behaviours. Research shows that the African American population tend to be more religious on the following measures than the U.S. population as a whole:
• Nearly eight in ten (79%) say religion is very important in their lives, compared to 56% among the general US population.
• More than half of African-Americans (53%) report attending religious services at least once a week, compared to 39% of
the general population.
• More than three quarters (76%) say they pray on at least a daily basis, compared to 58% of the general population.
For more than 30 years, The Balm In Gilead has worked to build a bridge between public health and faith. We have designed and implemented community mobilization models to address health disparities and provided training and leadership development to healthcare professional, partners and leaders within the faith community. In 2015, we launched our Healthy Churches 2020 Coalition Initiative. This regional initiative focused health initiative works with area churches, local health departments, community organizations and key stakeholders to provide resources, training, and capacity building to address a variety of health issues from chronic disease to HIV to breastfeeding. Healthcare professionals and public health leaders need an understanding of how to use faith as a vehicle to promote, facilitate, and address health issues in the African American community, and to create strong relationships with the faith community in a meaningful and impactful way.
Our framework for bridging the gap incorporates the following components:
Historical Significance of the Black Church
A. Cultural beliefs
B. Distrust of Health System
Impact of Health Disparities on African-American Communities
A. Low Access of Healthcare Services
B. Lack of Culturally Tailored Health Messages
Getting from awareness to action
A. Importance of building relationships with faith community
B. Leveraging strength of faith community to address health disparities by gaining an understanding of how to connect the faith and spirituality of African-Americans and health, public health leaders can be better equipped to provide culturally centered health education, care, and outreach. They are then able to leverage that understanding to identify strategies and
new approaches to support behaviour change, Increased health awareness and promote healthier minds, bodies and spirits.
Outcomes: Building upon the successes its Healthy Churches Coalition initiative, in 2016, The Balm In Gilead developed and implemented an educational program and mobilization campaign to address healthy aging and Brain Health within the
African American community. The National Brain Health Center for African Americans focuses on two target audiences the faith community and public health. In 2016, through partnerships with the National Black Nurses Association, the National
Medical Association, the organization provided cultural competency and educational trainings to over 500 healthcare professionals. Evaluation from these trainings showed a significant increase in providers awareness regarding the need for
improved cultural practices and attitudes and more than 80% reported that the information provided was “very useful” in helping identify strategies to incorporate cultural assessments into their practice and care delivery. In addition to the
provider trainings, The Balm also conducted 23 faith-based workshops providing information, tools, and resources to the African American community to raise awareness about issues related to healthy aging, Alzheimer’s, and other chronic disease.
Trainings also included effective strategies to partner with local healthcare and public health Organizations to support programs and services being provided by local congregations.
Take away notes:
• Discuss the unique role and historical significance of faith among African- Americans.
• Discuss relationship between faith, culture, and health behaviours among African-Americans.
• Identify possible strategies for healthcare professionals and organizations to work with faith organizations to develop and implement health initiatives that address health disparities and improve health equity.
• Share best practices, lessons learned, and approaches to overcoming challenges within healthcare among African Americans and other marginalized populations.