Partnering with Churches to Conduct a Wide-Scale Health Screening of an Urban, Segregated Community

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West Side Alive (WSA) is a partnership among pastors, church members and health researchers with the goal of improving health in the churches and surrounding community in the West Side of Chicago, a highly segregated African American area of Chicago with high rates of premature mortality and social disadvantage. To inform health intervention development, WSA conducted a series of health screenings that took place in seven partner churches. Key measures included social determinants of health and healthcare access, depression and PTSD screeners, and measurement of cardiometabolic risk factors, including blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and hemoglobin A1C (A1C). A total of 1106 adults were screened, consisting of WSA church members (n = 687), members of the local community served by the church (n = 339) and 80 individuals with unknown church status. Mean age was 52.8 years, 57% were female, and 67% reported at least one social risk factor (e.g. food insecurity). Almost all participants had at least one cardiovascular risk factor (92%), including 50% with obesity, 79% with elevated blood pressure and 65% with elevated A1C. A third of participants experienced ≥ 4 potentially traumatic events and 26% screened positive for depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. Participants were given personalized health reports and referred to services as needed. Information from the screenings will be used to inform the design of interventions targeting the West Side community and delivered in partnership with the churches. Sharing these results helped mobilize community members to improve their own health and the health of their community.

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We acknowledge the pastors, church coordinators and churches that participated in this study: Kandice Jones and Hope Community Church, Pastor Steve Spiller, Catherine Banks and Greater Galilee Missionary Baptist (MB) Church, Pastor Marshall Hatch, Rochelle Sykes, Gigi Fuller and New Mount Pilgrim MB Church, Pastor Cy Fields, Jessica Hudnall, and New Landmark MB Church, Pastor Ira Acree, Patty Ringo and Greater St. John Bible Church, Pastor Floyd James, Sr., Precious James and Greater Rock MB Church, and Pastor Michael Bryant, Tamara Gear and Kedvale New Mt. Zion MB Church. Numerous volunteers from each church also helped conduct the health screenings. In addition, numerous volunteers and staff from Rush University Medical Center helped with the screenings, including Wil Mims, Serena Sylvestri, and Shelby Gilyard. Research reported in this publication was supported by National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number R56HL135247. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health. We would also like to thank Dr. David Ansell and Darlene Hightower and the Rush University Medical Center Department of Community Engagement for providing additional funding for this study. Funding was also provided by the Foglia Family Foundation.

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Correspondence to Elizabeth B. Lynch.

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Lynch, E.B., Williams, J., Avery, E. et al. Partnering with Churches to Conduct a Wide-Scale Health Screening of an Urban, Segregated Community. J Community Health 45, 98–110 (2020).

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  • African American
  • Health disparities
  • Surveillance
  • Segregation