Faith-Based Settings

The Faith-Based Settings Sector includes diverse religious organizations, and can include religious congregations or houses of worship, organized religious denominations, faith-based social service agencies, and faith-based charities. The National Physical Activity Plan Faith-Based Settings Sector focuses primarily on religious congregations and organized religious denominations. This sector plays a large role in the lives of those living in the United States, for a large proportion of Americans report a religious affiliation (76.5%), with 70.6% affiliating with a Christian tradition.1 Relative to the general population, religious affiliation is higher in older generations, among non-Hispanic Blacks, and in the South.1 The Harford Institute for Religion Research estimates that the United States has roughly 350,000 religious congregations.2

Although the primary mission of religious congregations is the spiritual growth and well-being of its members, most faith-based organizations promote community service, outreach, and volunteerism. This inclusive mission, combined with broad reach across diverse communities, makes religious congregations well-positioned to play an important role in public health practice.3,4 Yet, churches are often overlooked as settings for public health disease prevention and health promotion programs. 3  Like worksites and schools, faith-based organizations have unique social systems, environments and physical structures (e.g., fellowship halls), communication channels, policies and practices, and often, health-related goals and supports (i.e., health ministries), which make them particularly conducive to promoting physical activity.

Faith-based health promotion programs have generally yielded positive changes in health behaviors.5-7 A 2012 review of faith-based physical activity interventions found significant increases in physical activity in 16 of the 27 papers reviewed.8 However, many of the interventions reviewed were small short-term, pilot studies not guided by theoretical frameworks.8 In addition, the majority of interventions focused on individual behaviors rather than the church environment, systems, and policies, thereby limiting program reach and sustainability.

The Faith-Based Settings Sector of the National Physical Activity Plan developed strategies and tactics aimed at: 1) including physical activity promotion in health ministries, 2) encouraging faith-based organizations to partner with organizations from other sectors to promote physical activity, 3) institutionalizing physical activity programs for employees in large faith-based organizations, 4) identifying or developing marketing materials about physical activity tailored for faith community leaders, 5) encouraging physical activity and public health organizations to partner with faith-based organizations to develop and deliver accessible and tailored physical activity programs for diverse groups, and 6) creating and maintaining an electronic resource of evidence-based programs and best practices for promoting physical activity in faith-based settings.

Implementation of this sector’s strategies and tactics has the potential to greatly broaden the reach and impact of physical activity promotion by empowering faith-based organizations to deliver effective physical activity programs to their employees and constituents. Partnerships with organizations in other sectors will help ensure that faith-based organizations are using tailored materials and following best practices to promote physical activity within their sector.

Strategies

Strategy 1 
Faith-based organizations should identify effective applications of their health ministries to promote physical activity. (FBS-1) [View Tactics]    

Strategy 2
Faith-based organizations should establish partnerships with organizations from other sectors to promote physical activity in a manner that is consistent with their values, beliefs, and practices. (FBS-2) [View Tactics]    

Strategy 3
Large faith-based organizations should institutionalize physical activity promotion programs for their employees. (FBS-3) [View Tactics]    

Strategy 4
Large faith-based organizations should identify or develop marketing materials tailored for faith community leaders to enhance their perceptions of the value of physical activity. (FBS-4) [View Tactics]    

Strategy 5 
Physical activity and public health organizations should partner with faith-based organizations in developing and delivering physical activity programs that are accessible to and tailored for diverse groups of constituents. (FBS-5) [View Tactics]    

Strategy 6
Physical activity and public health organizations should create and maintain an electronic resource for faith-based organizations to access evidence-based programs and best practices for promoting physical activity in faith-based settings. (FBS-6) [View Tactics]