New Study Finds That Churches Can Help Lower High Blood Pressure
A recent study by New York City researchers indicates that the church can play an important role in reducing high blood pressure in the African American community.
The study, which was published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes Journal on Tuesday, covered a period of four years and followed 372 participants in 32 churches around New York City.
Participants met with lay health workers in church in a small groups setting to cover topics like the use of a food diary, meal preparation, stress management and exercise. The sessions were 90 minutes long and occurred over an 11 week period, followed by three “motivational sessions.”
For those who met regularly at the church, the health benefits were remarkable.
“What we found was that for the group that had the intervention there was a significantly lower blood pressure reduction in them than the other group,” noted Dr. Gbenga Ogedebe, one of the study’s authors and a professor at NYU School of Medicine. “In other words, that group had a reduction in blood pressure by almost 6 points compared to the control group.”
That nearly 6 point reduction occurred only six months into the study. Dr. Ogedebe stated that if maintained over the course of four to five years, it can reduce heart attacks, stroke and heart failure by at least 20%.
When seeking a location to host the community-based health sessions, researchers were looking for a place, “where there is no intimidation and where there is trust,” said. Dr. Ogedebe. The church was an ideal location.
Amanda Hoyte-Badu, who was in her mid-twenties at the time, served as one of the lay health workers at Nazarene Congregational United Church of Christ in Brooklyn, where she led a session of participants primarily older than 60 years old. Her experienced underscores how welcoming and non-intimidating people found the program.
“They just appreciated having someone really listen to them and be understanding and nonjudgmental.”
Dr. Ogedebe also noted that prayer was also a critical factor in the success of participants. Each session began with prayer, which helped in the reduction of stress. Explaining why that is, Dr. Ogedebe offered a scientific explanation of prayer, describing it as, “a whole set of repetitive patterns [where] you are contemplating something and all those processes lead to a reduction in pulse rate.”
Researchers are hoping to use this type of community-based healthcare model to treat other chronic diseases like diabetes.