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J Relig Health. 2012 Sep;51(3):799-811. doi: 10.1007/s10943-010-9394-z.

Perceptions of social and environmental support for healthy eating and physical activity in rural southern churches.

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Emory Prevention Research Center, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, 1518 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30322, USA.


The influence of church environments on healthy eating and physical activity was explored through in-depth interviews with rural adults aged 50-70 (n = 60). Data were analyzed using a constant comparative approach, with an emphasis on noting similarities and differences between African American and predominantly white churches. Findings suggest that church-based nutrition and exercise programs were rare, and existing recreational facilities were geared toward younger members. The majority of church leaders did not talk about nutrition or physical activity, but social support from church friends for healthy eating and physical activity was fairly common. Despite barriers to establishing healthy environments in church settings, churches are rich in social support that could be tapped to promote healthy behavior.

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