Live Well by Faith, a program of the Columbia/Boone County Department of Public Health and Human Services (PHHS), has been recognized with an Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties. The Achievement Awards Program seeks to recognize innovative county government programs. In this case, innovation that has resulted in the improved physical health of Columbia's black residents through promoting healthy living, and connecting residents to health services.
Live Well by Faith was developed in response to results found through the PHHS Community Health Assessment (CHA). CHA data indicated that black residents in Columbia experience diabetes and hypertension at significantly higher rates than white residents. Data further indicated that rates of death due to both diseases were two to three times higher for the black population. This mirrors national trends that reveal black people have lower life expectancies, are less likely to have health insurance, make fewer primary care visits, have lower birth weights and higher infant mortality rates compared with white people. PHHS created a workgroup to study these disparities and implement practices to mitigate the incidence and effects of these diseases. The workgroup was comprised of stakeholders from throughout the community, including healthcare, not-for-profit, faith, government and education.
In Boone County, as in most counties, the workgroup discovered that black residents were very likely to have an affiliation with faith-based organizations. Recognizing the importance of this historically strong tie, the workgroup utilized Boone County funding to create Live Well by Faith. Live Well by Faith's model partnered faith with health educators from PHHS to tailor the program to the specific wellness needs of each congregation. This partnership provided a train-the-trainer experience so the program would be self-sustaining. As the workgroup tracked the impact of Live Well by Faith in the community, the program's success was readily apparent. According to PHHS Health Educator Verna Laboy, 78% of program participants showed notable weight loss from baseline to post-test and 17% had a normal blood pressure post-test as compared to 11% at baseline.
"Addressing health disparities like hypertension and diabetes with evidence-based programs has been making a difference in the lives of the program participants," Laboy said. "This work must continue in our community. We must find a way to expand this work exponentially and increase sustainability. I want to congratulate to all of the volunteers from the participating faith community who are leading this health initiative."
Live Well by Faith demonstrates how a community can collaborate with a nontraditional partner to address heretofore unaddressed chronic healthcare needs within a specific demographic. This kind of collaboration results in better health outcomes and a healthier community at large by empowering community members to improve their own health outcomes.
For more information on the Live Well by Faith program, contact Verna Laboy at 573.874.6318, or email Verna.Laboy@CoMo.gov.