Working on Wellness in Faith-Based Communities with the EmPOWERED & Well Healthier Church Challenge

The EmPOWERED and Well Healthier Church Challenge was a 12-week pilot program

EmPowered and Well Participants in the DMV

designed to support and expand the ongoing health and wellness activities of black women and their faith-based communities. It was established by the American Heart Association, with the help of its sponsor, WW International, Inc. (Weight Watchers Reimagined).

Together the American Heart Association and WW offered timely, relevant content to help church members lower their risk of heart disease and stroke, lose weight, manage blood pressure, and lower their risk of diabetes.

At the end of the pilot, churches with high levels of participation and that met specific critieria were recognized as winners. This criteria consisted of overall pre/post survey completion, overall average attendance, minimum matriculation of at least 85% and bonus points were available for health ministry initiatives and social media presence.

The 12-week pilot program began the week of January 19, 2020 with science-based health education and coaching. These were weekly health and wellness sessions empowered participants to help improve their health in harmony with their faith.

Over 50 churches participated from Atlanta, Charlotte, North Carolina, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C. Greater Washington Region Churches included:

    • Community of Hope A.M.E Church (Top 5 national finalist and local winner)
    • Allen Chapel AME (local winner)
    • Alfred Street Baptist Church
    • Reid Temple A.M.E. Church
    • Fort Foote Baptist Church
    • Shiloh Baptist Church
    • East Washington Heights Baptist Church
    • Greater Mount Calvary Holy Church

In light of the COVID-19 public health crisis, the EmPOWERED and Well Healthier Church

A Word Cloud created for the EmPOWERED and Well program in the DMV.

Challenge moved from weekly in-person workshops to virtual sessions. LIVE expert-led health lessons took place via Zoom.  The April 25th lesson on Eating Smart was facilitated by Greater Washington Region’s volunteer church ambassador – and longtime AHA supporter – for Reid Temple AME, Sharon Hawks (Founder, CEO and Director of Nutrition and Diabetes Education Center).

All participating faith organizations received stipends to support their health ministries upon the start of the program. The opportunity to receive additional support and special giveaways throughout the challenge was another benefit. Two of our local churches, Community of Hope A.M.E. Church and Allen Chapel A.M.E., successfully met all the completion criteria.  Community of Hope in addition to being one of our local winners was one of the top five churches nationwide.  A challenge participant from Community of Hope A.M.E. shares that she was, “grateful to both the American Heart Association and the Community of Hope AME church, for saving her life through their Heart Healthy Challenge partnership.”

As the pilot program has concluded, we have been able to provide the following resources to the local churches who participated in the pilot and expressed a need for support during the pandemic: blood pressure monitors, contactless thermometers, disposable face masks, disposable gloves, hand sanitizer and stipends to support food distribution efforts. We’ve witnessed our Healthier Church Challenge participants stay committed on their wellness journey and are so very proud of their success.

Congratulations to all and we look forward to continued collaboration. For more information on the EmPOWERED and Well Virtual Faith Community please visit: .

Submitted by: Carly Ohlrich,  Health Strategies Intern