Faith-based Community Health Interventions: Incorporating Cultural Ecology, the Social Ecological Framework, and Gender Analysis
Originally Published In
Health Communication: Strategies for Developing Global Health Programs
Public health institutions and professionals and faith-based institutions such as churches, mosques, and temples have often been engaged in a masked, jittery dance with one another in the conduct of health promotion. In this dance, no touching is allowed and the hidden faces obscure the words and meanings of the other, heightening fears and suspicions. Often at the center of the distrust is who controls the message about the health problem and how it is delivered. Although there have been many alliances between public health, medicine and faith-based institutions over the decades, the HIV and AIDS epidemic launched a resurgence of interest in public health organizations reaching out to faith communities in efforts to promote supportive HIV prevention and care messages. Globally, most people identify themselves as having some faith or religious belief (For more details, check the website at http://www.religioustolerance.org/worldrel.htm). Acknowledging both the widespread reach of religious organizations to people living at the “grassroots” and the influence of religious leaders, public health organizations, governments, and foundations have significantly increased their outreach and funding to multiple religious-based institutions. In the United States (U.S.), there are increased examples of churches partnering with public health institutions in supporting church-led “Health Ministries” covering topics such as diabetes control and prevention; healthy, nutritious cooking; heart disease; exercise programs; and stress reduction (Campbell et al., 2007; Peterson, Atwood, & Yates, 2002).