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Designing the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Souls Church-Based Diabetes Prevention Program Through a Participatory Process

Background: The Healthy Bodies, Healthy Souls (HBHS) program aims to reduce diabetes risk among urban African Americans by creating healthy food and physical activity environments within churches. Participant engagement supports the development of applicable intervention strategies by identifying priority concerns, resources, and opportunities. Purpose: We developed a church-based diabetes intervention program using participatory research methods. Methods: Thirteen planning workshops were held with church community members in 3 intervention churches to identify and prioritize foods and behaviors that congregants view as contributing to obesity and diabetes in the church community. Members of the research team moderated the workshops and introduced discussion themes. Results: Prioritized themes included problem foods in the church (fried chicken, soda) and at home (fried chicken, french fries) and healthier alternatives (baked chicken), barriers to healthy eating (time, expensive) and physical activity (commitment, laziness), healthy food-related behaviors (portion control), messages, and media tools to promote change. Discussion: Common findings across churches helped form the basis of the HBHS intervention. Tailoring intervention components to individual churches was necessary due to differences in church size, organizational structure, and resources. Translation to Health Education Practice: A participatory approach facilitated the design of culturally appropriate, potentially sustainable intervention components tailored for implementation in each church.