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Health Ministry

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Culture plays an important role in health promotion interventions, and there has been an increasing use of community-based settings for health promotion activities. Church membership provides a strong foundation for social support, regular face-to-face meetings that represent additional channels for intervention, authority figures (clergy) who can be appealed to in health messaging, and a shared belief system that can be leveraged in motivating behavior change. Many churches also have a group of highly-engaged volunteers who run “Health Ministries”, responsible for promoting the health of the congregation and the broader community, and represent additional resources for health interventions.

In this project, we are working with communities in a network of 12 churches in the Boston area, along with their Health Ministries, the church leadership, and a community liaison affiliated with Boston Medical Center, to improve the overall health of this population. The intervention will leverage smartphone-based conversational agents and mobile activity detection in addition to media deployed in face-to-face Health Ministry meetings.

This work is supported by the National Science Foundation, and is a collaboration with Dr. Michael Paasche-Orlow (Boston Medical Center), Profs. Stephen Intille and Jessica Hoffman at Northeastern, Andrea Parker (Georgia Tech), and the Black Ministerial Alliance Tenpoint in Boston.