The power of faith to help people maintain their well being has been a topic of great interest throughout history. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign reported on April 27, 2016, a faith based health promotion program has been successful for elderly Latinas.
New studies have found a lifestyle intervention which is culturally sensitive has showed a great deal of promise to help motivate Latinas who are living in the United States to eat better and exercise more often. This has been accomplished by associating living behaviors which are healthy with the lives of saints and respected prominent religious figures.
There has been a growing body of research which indicates health interventions may be more successful promoting lifestyle changes in the rapidly growing Latino population in the United States if there is culturally sensitive content. It is seen as important to integrate the spiritual and family values which are central to the lives of these women.
Andiara Schwingel of the University of Illinois, who is a kinesiology and community health professor, has developed a program called Abuelas en Acción, or Grandmothers in Action. Schwingel says putting religious content at the center of this program has helped to foster a stronger relationship between Latinas and the program. This has contributed to increased levels of engagement and motivation. The women were motivated to make healthier choices and to reflect on their lifestyle due to the religious content of the program.
Schwingel has noted that church based promotion of health has been shown to be important in helping to reach Latinos. This is particularly important because Latinas are overall a vulnerable population in the United States that is often difficult for public health programs to reach. Many of the Latinas in the United States do not have health insurance coverage and they may be most in need of health programs.
This research has been published in the Journal of Aging and Health. The researchers had an objective of evaluating a promotora led community health program which was specially designed for Latinas who are 50 and older who desired to improve nutrition, physical activity and stress management.
This program was found to be effective at increasing physical activity levels, improving eating behaviors and lowering depressive symptoms in participants. It seems that the promotora delivery model has promise for program sustainability. All along it should be highlighted that faith associated health promotion is often very successful in dealing with Latinas.