Healthy People in a Healthy Environment

Faith Communities Health Program

Healthy concept, Spirit, Body and Mind

The top three health issues identified by the majority of the congregations were: high blood pressure, obesity/ weight control (unhealthy eating/ no physical activity), and diabetes. The top three barriers the majority of the congregations reported that their parishioners face in achieving optimum health were: lack of knowledge, lack of motivation and support, and lack of time.

HCHD received about 144 pre-surveys between five of the congregations. Most respondents appeared to have good knowledge about nutrition and the benefits of physical activity, but only about a quarter were as physically active as they’d like and ate as healthy as they’d like.

Each congregation submitted action plans based on the data gained from health screenings they hosted, if applicable, and their needs assessments to choose appropriate programming for their congregation/faith-based organizations. For example, at Channel of Grace Worship Center in Edgewood, MD, there were at least five participants that were found to have very high blood pressure during the screening session.  As a result of this, the mini-grant implementation team brought in a nurse from University of MD Upper Chesapeake HealthLink to provide a learning session on high blood pressure and heart disease.

One screening session took place in July 2015. Although turnout was not as high as this congregation wanted, they were pleased with the information both themselves and their parishioners were able to gain from the screening. This did help them in planning their mini-grant programming. Examples of the activities focusing on nutrition and physical activities that were undertaken by the grantees are listed below.

Faith Grant 3Faith Grant 2

Participating Organizations 

Faith GrantThe Harford County Health Department is partnering with faith leaders to start a Faith Communities Health Program for supporting local congregations/faith-based organizations to promote improvement in health behaviors and outcomes in Harford County. Local congregations/faith-based organizations had an opportunity to apply for mini-grants for initiating and developing health ministries to improve nutrition, physical activity, and overall health of their communities. Funding is from the Maryland Cancer Fund of the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which is designed to prevent cancer in the community by promoting healthy lifestyles.

The following organizations will be participating in the Faith Communities Health Program and received mini-grant funds to support their health improvement efforts. Click on the organizations names below to read a summary about each of their final projects.

Ames United Methodist Church

Saving the Sanctuary: The Increase of Health and Wellness Ministries

Ames United Methodist Church in Bel Air created a toolkit to guide churches in establishing health and wellness ministries for their congregations. To date, 3 of the 10 churches targeted have been presented with the Saving the Sanctuary Project and have begun to implement health and welfare ministries. Ames plans to sustain the Saving the Sanctuary Project by expanding the project to other churches providing initial presentations and helping develop health and welfare ministries. Churches will be followed, with periodic communication and assistance in addressing the challenges that any of the churches may face at any time.

Apostolic Voice of Truth

The “Whole” Family

Apostolic Voice of Truth in Edgewood hosted an informational series every Tuesday through July and August for families with activities such as exercise classes (Zumba and yoga), nutrition featuring food samples and activities for children, and a cancer prevention presentation.

Channel of Grace Worship Center

Health Matters: P=3 Pray, Praise, and be Prepared

Channel of Grace Worship Center in Edgewood hosted bi-weekly sessions including sessions on why your health matters, a nutrition seminar entitled “My Diet and Me”, a market tour of Food Lion, and a “Know Your Numbers” seminar with a nurse. In the spring of 2016, the center sponsored a work-out for a 5K walk for 6 weeks at the Y, followed by participation in the walk for the homeless on May 21, and a healthy eating presentation given the following day.

Extreme Family Outreach

The Transformation Station

Extreme Family Outreach, operating in 3 locations, conducted a 4-week program focusing on children starting healthy habits at a young age, focusing on simple changes to improve nutrition.

Inner County Outreach

Kid On The Go and Healthy Eating Program

Inner County Outreach in Aberdeen, MD hosted a Summer Day Camp for children in 2015 that included 7 weeks of activities including swimming and outdoor play time. The camp also had a vegetable garden. Children participated in planting and caring for the garden and ate the food from the garden.


Love Fellowship Christian Center

Get Fit Club

Love Fellowship Christian Center in Bel Air sponsored a number of activities:

  • Biggest Loser Contest Round I
  • Turkey Trot 5K Run/Walk
  • Community Health Fair – 1/16/16
  • April 30th Family Mile walk and 5K run at Oregon Ridge Park
  • Biggest Loser Session II
  • Saturday Family Fun Walks – Cedar Lane Park
  • Kids fitness challenge

St. James A.M.E. Church

F.A.N. – The Journey Continues

James Church continued their FAN (Faith, Activity, and Nutrition) Program by offering healthy food options at their annual church picnic and introducing more movement into weekly services. Following a Wednesday Bible Study a representative from the American Heart Association featured the Healthy Start Kitchen, which demonstrates ways to prepare heart-healthy meals. St. James also offered free 1-month Planet Fitness memberships to participants.

St. Margaret's Parish

Body, Mind, Spirit Seminars

St. Margaret’s hosted a 6-part “Taste of Health” series during February and March of 2016 to encourage physical, mental, and spiritual well-being of its members. An average of 190 members attended each week’s discussion and the topics included:

  • Exercise Flexibility & Balance
  • Nutrition: Healthy Food Substitutions
  • Meditation & Prayer
  • Emotional Health
  • Using Your Talents
  • SMART Goal Setting.

St. Paul's Lutheran Church

Living Healthy and Holy

Paul’s Lutheran Church in Aberdeen implemented the Living Holy and Healthy series, which is based around small groups discussing “The Daniel Plan”, with a weekly “snack and study”, a “Biggest Loser” contest, a walking club and free books, pedometers and other materials for participants along the way. This program was featured in an article in the Baltimore Sun (

Word of Faith International Outreach

Families Fit for the Kingdom

Word of Faith in Aberdeen, MD-based a health program around the Faithful Families curriculum from North Carolina. They hosted sessions every Monday starting in October 2015 through November 2015. The sessions began with a 20-minute nutrition lesson (from purchasing to preparing) as well as nutritious food samples and then 30 minutes of exercise.

Meeting Materials

Evidence-Based Programs

  • Faith Activity Nutrition FANFaith, Activity, and Nutrition (FAN) Program: Program designed to increase healthy eating and physical activity among African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church members, but the information and tools can assist any denomination in promoting healthier behaviors and environment.  FAN aims to create a healthier church body, where the majority of members see and hear health messages that encourage healthy lifestyle choices.  The full online FAN Committee Training and FAN Cook Training are provided in both text and self-paced training modules.
  • Body & Soul: Health program developed for African American churches. The program encouraged church members to eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables every day for better Body and Soulhealth.  Body & Soul is built on four program pillars:
    • Pastor Involvement
    • Church Activities that Promote Healthy Eating
    • Church Environment that Promotes Healthy Eating
    • Peer Counseling that Motivates Church Members to Eat a Healthy Diet
  • Faithful FamiliesFaithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More: Promotes healthy eating and physical activity in communities of faith through the teaching of a 9-session curriculum co-taught by nutrition and physical education educators as well as lay leaders. Encourages implementation of research-based policies, programs, and environmental changes.
  • Community Health Resources Information Services (CHRIS): a Faith-based initiative that began with a concept to draw on the strong ties within the faith-based community to improve access to health information, particularly health issues disproportionately affecting minorities, and encourage healthy behaviors.

Health Ministry Resources

  • Parish Nursing: Provides information about Faith Community Nursing (formerly known as Parish Nursing) including available courses, resources, news and much more.
  • Church Health Reader: Published by the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tennessee, Church Health Reader encourages and equips people of faith to create and sustain Christian ministries of health, healing, and wholeness. All resources on this website are organized around the Model for Healthy Living.
    • Church Health’s Model for Healthy Living: A balanced life takes into consideration what is going on not just medically but in the areas of faith, movement, work, emotions, nutrition, and friends and family. These are the seven areas of the Model for Healthy Living.  More information is provided on this website about these seven areas.

Public Health Resources

  • Provides easy, online access to vetted food and nutrition information from across the federal government. Serves as a gateway to reliable information on nutrition, healthy eating, physical activity, and food safety for consumers.
  • CHOPCHOP Magazine: Offers nutritious, great-tasting, diverse and inexpensive recipes that encourage families to cook and eat together. Recipes are designed to teach basic cooking skills and develop a set of good meals you’ll know how to make.
  • Provides the latest, most reliable resources on a wide range of health topics selected from 1,400 government and non-profit organizations that will help you and those you care about stay healthy.
  • MillionHearts: Million Hearts is a national initiative that looks to focus, coordinate and enhance cardiovascular disease prevention activities. Some healthy eating resources provided on their website include heart-healthy recipes, easy meal plans, and inspiring articles that provide ideas for heart-healthier living.
  • Maryland Health Connection Medical Assistance:  This link provides you with information on medical insurance programs including the Maryland Children’s Health Program (MCHP), Maryland Children’s Health Premium Program, Medical Assistance for Families, and Medical Assistance for Adults.  If you have any questions about medical insurance or need help enrolling, the Harford County Health Department has staff available to help.  Contact information is provided in the above link.
  • Healthy Dining Finder: Find the best restaurant choices in your area.  Simply put in your ZIP then you can personalize your search based on your dietetic needs. You can choose your calorie amount, carbs, sodium, saturated fats, the type of cuisine, price and even choose places for healthy kids meals. The distance always defaults to a 10-mile radius, so if you’re looking for something outside of 10 miles, just change your settings.

Promising Practices

  • Project Joy: Campaign to promote a heart healthy lifestyle among African American women. The program uses existing faith communities to educate church members about health activities associated with Project Joy.