On Sunday, August 26, participants in the Preventive Health Education Resulting in Action Inspiring Success for Everyone (PRAISE) Initiative celebrated five years of partnership between UNC Asheville, ABIPA (the Asheville Buncombe Institute of Parity Achievement), and local African American churches to promote community health. The Annual PRAISE Celebration and Awards Dinner at UNC Asheville honored 12 churches for their progress in promoting the health of their congregations and their families and communities.
The PRAISE Initiative has been supported by Mission Health Community Investments since 2014, with $35,000 the current funding level for this year. The Bank of America, and AARP have also contributed to the initiative in previous years.
“This initiative started out as an acronym on a white board,” said UNC Asheville Associate Professor of Health and Wellness Ameena Batada. “Just five years later, we are seeing and hearing big changes in the lives of church members, and our evaluation results support what we hear anecdotally. The PRAISE Initiative contributes to greater knowledge of personal health, healthier church meals, increased fruit and vegetable consumption, and regular physical activity among congregation members.”
Churches received Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Honorable Mention Awards for conducting and expanding health screening programs, healthy food offerings at church gatherings, and church-based opportunities for physical activity, educational activities and other health promotion efforts. “The PRAISE Awards celebration was a wonderful time to reflect on all of our collaborative hard work and how far we have come as individuals and a community. This journey may seem short to some, but the dedication of those involved in this initiative has been invaluable and can never be understated. Ultimately, as we continue to shift the culture of health, one congregation and one person at a time, that make up one community, we look forward to the amazing things that we will continue to do together during the next year and beyond!” said ABIPA Executive Director JéWana Grier-McEachin.
Kathey Avery, R.N., ABIPA director of clinical and community connections, regularly witnesses how hard the churches work. “It was inspirational to see all the churches come together to celebrate their accomplishments with us Sunday. All the churches present told me they felt honored to know they were so appreciated, by us complimenting and sharing their success stories over the past five years.” Pam Johnson, R.N., health ministry representative at Tried Stone Missionary Baptist Church spoke to those in attendance, stating, “There is a true connection between health and spirituality. If our bodies are God’s temple, shouldn’t that motivate us to make healthier choices?”
As part of the PRAISE initiative, ABIPA provides guidance, workshops and health screenings in partnership with the churches; UNC Asheville faculty and undergraduate researchers conduct the program evaluation, also working together with ABIPA and the churches.