The numbers have been tallied and official winners have been determined for the 2014 Faith in Wellness Blues Community Challenge, an incentive-based wellness program designed to reduce health disparities in diverse faith communities.
Congregation members recently gathered to celebrate their successes at True Light Baptist Church with a picnic, small health fair, Zumba, and activities for the kids, including face painting, a bounce house and a peek inside a Grand Rapids fire truck.
Over the past 12 weeks, over 900 individuals from 20 congregations have been gaining points by:
- Logging their physical activity via WalkingWorks
- Attending activities offered though various wellness opportunities to enhance healthy living practices
- Completing the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) Walking by Faith Assessment, which measures the health of the congregation
This year’s top three congregations in the small, medium, and large-sized church competitions are:
Small (up to 100 members)
- Davis Memorial Church of God in Christ
- La Nueva Esperanza United Methodist Church
- Bread of the World Church
Medium (101-250 members)
- St. Luke A.M.E. Zion Church
- Tabernacle Community Church
- First Community A.M.E. Church
Large (251 or more members)
- Messiah Missionary Baptist Church
- Brown Hutcherson Ministries
- New Hope Baptist Church
“Every congregation who participated will receive some type of grant funding to continue their health ministry”, said Cle Jackson, BCBSM Senior Community Liaison. “The programs at the churches are changing lives.”
Juanita Forrest is a 76-year-old member at New Hope. She started walking because of the WalkingWorks component of the program. She’s lost 20 pounds and reduced her blood pressure.
“I couldn’t walk half a mile without an inhaler,” Forrest said of her health before she started. “I feel great.”
As one of her church’s oldest participants, Forrest said everyone was cheering her on and many called her their inspiration. If she could do it, they could do it, she explained.
“It made me feel good to hear others say ‘I want to be just like you’,” she said.
Ellen Atkins is on the health team for Messiah Missionary Baptist Church, the large congregation winner.
“We would have won even if we lost,” Atkins said.
Still, Atkins is proud of the many people in her congregation who committed to health, and she’s making it her mission to make sure they continue beyond the 12 weeks.
“That’s the victory, right there,” she said.
Laura B. Moody, is the health administrator and first lady at Brown Hutcherson. She’s also a nursing professor at Grand Rapids Community College and understands the importance of prevention and health education. She said her congregation is still a work in progress. They’ve dramatically increased their physical movement and are now working toward healthier food choices.
The competitive aspect helped motivate congregants, but Moody agreed that as long as people participated and learned something about living healthier, they won.
Photo credit: Julie Bitely