woman with doctorA church-based health intervention reduced stroke risk behaviors among Hispanic and non-Hispanic parishioners, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2015.

The Stroke Health and Risk Education Project was a faith-based, culturally-sensitive behavioral intervention study to reduce stroke risk factor behaviors such as physical inactivity, poor eating habits and uncontrolled high blood pressure. The one-year intervention included a physical activity guide with pedometer and educational materials on healthy eating and blood pressure management. It also included motivational counseling calls and a support workshop with peers.

Researchers applied the intervention to five of 10 Catholic churches in Corpus Christi, Texas. The other five served as a comparison group. Of the 760 Hispanic and non-Hispanic white Catholic parishioners who participated in the study:

  • Those in the intervention group had an increase of 0.25 cups a day in fruit and vegetable intake compared to the control group.
  • Intervention group participants decreased salt intake by 123 milligrams per day, compared to the control group.
  • There was no difference between the groups in physical activity level improvement.

While more research is needed, SHARE’s success in improving stroke risk behaviors suggests that faith-based programs may be useful to reduce stroke in communities including Hispanic Americans, the nation’s largest minority population, researchers said.