November 14, 2003 | By: Aimee D. Heald

Lyle Morton, pastor of New Zion Methodist Church in Scott County, believes physical health can be just as important as spiritual health. That’s why he was receptive to University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service leaders when they approached him about hosting a health fair for his church members and the surrounding community.

Linda Jouridine, associate professor and program director for the University of Kentucky Health Education through Extension Leadership program, said oftentimes if a minister says something is important, the congregation listens.

“African American communities listen to their pastors and very often the church is the backbone of the community,” she said. “They have historically delivered important messages not just about health, but about economics, finance, legal issues, etc.”

After the regular Sunday service, members were treated to a variety of health information and free services at the church including flu shots, blood pressure checks, cholesterol screenings, oral cancer screening tests to take home and even a time to ask a pharmacist questions.

Jouridine credits Connie Minch, Scott County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences, for making the health fair a reality.

Minch attended a training meeting in March where Vivian Lasley-Bibbs, state health specialist with the Cooperative Extension Program at Kentucky State University, talked about a similar project that she conducted at her church in Lexington.

“When I heard her speak I thought the program was tailor-made for the New Zion community,” Minch said. “Also we have a very active African American homemakers group here and I felt they would support this effort. It’s turned out well.”

Minch said they opened the health fair to the general public so even those not affiliated with the church could attend. 

New Zion has blood pressure checks at the church each month so members can monitor their health.

“I think we need to become more aware of our physical anatomy,” Morton said. “We’ll be better stewards of what God has blessed us with. All of us have different levels of potential but we have to take care of what we’ve been given to reach it so we can be blessed with more abundance, more joy and a better quality of life.”

Jouridine said the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta is interested in getting involved with faith-based initiatives through the Reach 2010 program.

“Across the country there are organizations that use the church as a venue to talk about lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels,” she said. “I think this model is going to become more popular as research shows some of the effectiveness of getting the faith-based community involved in being a messenger for good health.” 

Minch is looking forward to doing another health fair in the future and she believes it will be easier the second time around.

“I want to get the message out to the community that Cooperative Extension does have valuable information on health and wellness and that we are anxious to share it,” she said.
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Writer: Aimee D. Heald 859-257-4736, ext. 267
Source: Linda Jouridine 859-257-2968