Our project to reduce heart attacks and strokes in Southeastern San Diego has grown to include 22 congregations under the leadership of our partner, the United African American Ministerial Action Council, led by the Rev. Gerald W. Brown.
Each congregation developed its own heart-healthy action plan to improve its members’ nutrition, increase their physical activity and monitor their blood pressure and weight. What’s more, they formed a learning community to share best practices and support one another.
This is significant because this project rightfully puts each congregation in the driver’s seat, not imposing a top-down plan for improvements. And collectively, the congregations have reached important milestones since coming together nearly three years ago:
They have established and nurtured relationships with healthcare providers who can help their members in many ways.
Most important of all, the pastors are leading the change in culture at their faith organizations, fostering healthier lifestyles for the generations whose lives they touch.
All that organized work was scheduled to end in September. That’s when the three-year Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant, made possible by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was to end.
In March, however, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced that the grant would be extended one year.
But don’t look for the congregations to break out the cake and ice cream to celebrate. Instead, look for fruits, vegetables and whole-grain breads at their social gatherings.
“We’ve learned that healthy food can taste good,” said Pastor Don E. Conley, from Encanto Southern Baptist Church, one of the participating congregations.