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The Faith, Activity and Nutrition (FAN) Program

Program Title The Faith, Activity and Nutrition (FAN) Program
Purpose Designed to increase physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption among adults. (2013)
Program Focus Awareness building, Behavior Modification, Motivation and Self-efficacy
Population Focus Adults
Topic Physical Activity, Diet/Nutrition
Age Adults (40-65 years), Older Adults (65+ years), Young Adults (19-39 years)
Gender Female, Male
Race/Ethnicity Black, not of Hispanic or Latino origin
Setting Religious establishments
Origination United States
Funded by NHLBI (Grant number(s): R01HL083858)
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The Need

African Americans have a higher cancer mortality rate than Americans of any other racial group and are 31% more likely to die of stroke and 23% more likely to die of heart disease than Caucasians, according to 2005 age-adjusted death rates reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion identified four modifiable health risk behaviors: lack of physical activity, poor nutrition, tobacco use and excessive alcohol consumption, as playing a major role in the development and early death associated with chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease and cancer. The World Health Organization estimates that if these four modifiable health risk behaviors were eliminated, at least 80% of all heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes would be prevented, and more than 40% of cancer cases would be prevented. In a 2009 report, the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion emphasized the importance of community-based public health efforts that prioritize prevention with interventions that facilitate and support individual responsibility and behavior change in school, workplace, faith-based, and medical settings.

The Program

The Faith, Activity, and Nutrition (FAN) Program is a 15-month, faith-based participatory intervention designed to increase physical activity and fruit and vegetable consumption and reduce blood pressure among African American church members by targeting social, cultural, and policy influences within the church. The FAN Program represents a partnership between South Carolina's 7th Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church, the University of South Carolina, the Medical University of South Carolina, Clemson University, and Allen University. As part of the AME Church Health Ministry, the FAN Program aims to help AME church members become stronger in health by (1) becoming more physically active at a moderate intensity (e.g., brisk walking) for 30 minutes daily, at least 5 days per week, (2) eating 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables daily, (3) eating whole grain foods (e.g., whole wheat bread and brown rice and pasta), (4) eating less fat, especially saturated fat, and (5) consuming less salt. The FAN Program helps churches select activities to implement that are consistent with the structural ecologic model by: (1) creating opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating, (2) making the opportunities appropriate and fun, (3) setting organizational guidelines and providing support, and (4) getting the message out through church channels. The FAN Program involves a church-wide implementation of a set of core physical and healthy eating activities; the creation of a bulletin board to highlight upcoming FAN activities; the regular distribution of educational materials and handouts supporting FAN goals; and the dissemination of FAN health benefit messages and church policy practices supporting FAN from the pulpit.
Because congregants' needs and interests and available resources vary among churches, the first step in implementing the FAN Program is to create a committee of up to five key leaders and active church members. In selecting committee members, churches are encouraged to include the following: the pastor, the church health director, a FAN coordinator, and members who are passionate about health. Committee members should represent a cross-section of the congregation (men, women, youth, and seniors), be good role models, and be people who can motivate and involve other church members. It is recommended that committee members meet monthly to brainstorm new ideas for promoting health in the church and should be willing to take a key role in ensuring the success of the FAN Program by being true advocates for physical activity and healthy eating.

The FAN training program consists of two parts: a Committee Training to develop a customized plan for implementing the program, and a Cook Training based on the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet plan. In the study reviewed for this summary, church committee members, pastors, and cooks participated in face-to-face, full-day trainings to learn how to implement the intervention. Training for the intervention is now provided entirely online in the form of downloadable text files and training modules with video demonstrations on the Health-E-AME website.

The FAN Committee Training is designed to assist in the development of a customized church activities plan and budget for implementing the intervention. Activities are organized by the structural ecological model described earlier. The training provides an overview of the FAN Program and its goals, links study goals to scripture and to the AME church's health mission, defines physical activity and healthy eating, engages the pastor in supporting FAN, and facilitates brainstorming activities the church can do to promote physical activity and healthy eating. By watching and reading the FAN Committee Training materials, the committee members learn:

-- How to build physical activity and healthy eating into ongoing church events and activities
-- Techniques for spreading information to congregants about the importance of physical activity and healthy eating
-- How to develop guidelines and practices that the pastor can put in place to support health programs

Upon completion of the online training, the FAN Committee will have the beginnings of a written plan outlining a variety of church activities that highlight ways to eat healthier and incorporate physical activity into regular church functions, with knowledge of how to use the online FAN resource materials for ongoing monthly support of the program. The FAN Committee is encouraged to focus on a new behavioral strategy (consistent with Social Cognitive Theory) each month for increasing physical activity or healthy eating.

The FAN Cook Training provides cooks, lead kitchen staff, and other members responsible for planning church menus, preparing food, and catering with the skills and resources needed to prepare healthier food options that are high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and low in fat and salt. By watching and reading the FAN Cook Training materials, those involved with church meal preparation learn:

-- Healthy eating and cooking based on the DASH diet
-- Tips for preparing creative and flavorful healthy meals
-- Techniques for spreading information about healthy eating
-- Kitchen safety procedures
-- Food/market shopping tips
-- Healthy makeovers for traditional recipes

Once the trainings have been completed, the church holds a kick-off event to officially launch the FAN Program. The online training materials provide some suggested ideas for this event, such as having the pastor prepare a sermon that ties healthy living to scripture, inviting motivational speakers to speak to the congregation, giving demonstrations on how to safely start an exercise program, providing a bag with different fruits and vegetables to church congregants, and having the church cook or lead kitchen staff give demonstrations of healthy snacks or meals.

In addition, three packets, each with monthly materials, are available online to support implementation of the FAN Program (in the study reviewed, these materials were mailed to participants):

-- A FAN Committee Packet that gives an overview of the month's behavioral goal or area of focus, creative ways to emphasize the goal, along with a bulletin insert plus one or more educational brochures or skills-based worksheets to share with the congregation, and suggested activities to implement within the congregation

-- A Pastor's Packet that includes ideas for how the pastor may serve as a positive role model for the congregation and support FAN goals

-- A Cook's Packet that includes healthy recipes, handouts, and other healthy eating resources for monthly distribution to the congregation

Time Required

-- 4-6 hours for the FAN Committee Training
-- 4-6 hours for the FAN Cook Training
-- About 11 hours for monthly meetings, each 30-45 minutes long, of the FAN Committee across 15 months (this planning can be integrated into healthy ministry meetings if they exist)
-- 10-20 minutes each for 9 "core activities" in physical activity to be incorporated into existing church programs already in place (for example, 10 minutes of physical activity before, during, and after the service; 10-minute activity breaks before, during, and after choir practice; 10-minute physical activity breaks during meetings or during church-sponsored events; 20-minute walking excursions following service)
-- About 12 hours for 12 "core activities" in healthy eating, each lasting about an hour inclusive of selection, preparation, and execution, to be incorporated into regular, meal-related church events whenever possible (for example, church food-tasting events, pot luck dinners or after-service luncheons, holiday side dishes and desserts)


Intended Audience

The FAN Program targets AME churches, their pastors, presiding elders, and church members.

Suitable Settings

The FAN Program is implemented within AME churches.

Required Resources

Materials required for implementation include:

-- The FAN Program Health-E-AME website

For costs associated with this program, please contact: Sara Wilcox. (See products page on the RTIPs website for contact information).

About the Study

A randomized controlled trial evaluated the effects of the 15-month FAN Program among the 1,257 congregants of 74 AME churches in South Carolina on reported weekly moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and daily fruit and vegetable consumption. Churches were randomized to an immediate FAN intervention or waitlist control (delayed intervention). Each intervention church sent two individuals to attend a hands-on Cook Training with a chef and registered dietician, who provided examples of healthy meals and snacks, engaged the trainees in healthy food menu planning, encouraged the redesign of favorite church meal recipes to be healthier, and demonstrated the development of flavor in foods through healthy ingredients. Up to five members also attended a FAN Committee Training. Intervention church committees and pastors received monthly mailings that included incentives promoting FAN program messages (for example, church fans, cups aprons); handouts supporting FAN goals that could be distributed to church members; and tools (recipes) for church cooks. Pastor mailings included motivational information, a goal of the month, and an activity for the pastor to try (for example, sharing pedometer step counts with the congregation). Follow-up technical assistance calls were made by study staff to pastors, FAN coordinators, and cooks, to track program implementation and help with problem-solving. Intervention churches received a stipend of up to $1,000, depending on church size, to assist with covering the costs associated with implementing the FAN Program for 15 months.

Study churches were asked to recruit 13, 32, or 63 members, depending on the church size (small, medium, or large, respectively), for outcome measurements. Church size was defined as small if there were fewer than 100 members, medium if there were 100 to 500 members, and large if there were more than 500 members. To be eligible for the study, participants had to be at least 18 years old, be free of serious medical conditions or disabilities that would make small changes in physical activity or diet difficult, and regularly attend church (at least once monthly). Study participants were recruited by a pastor-appointed FAN coordinator to attend a baseline assessment and a follow-up assessment 15 months later (post-intervention or waitlist control). After providing informed consent, participants completed the baseline assessment. Church pastors made announcements at worship services to promote participation, and study staff called participants to remind them to attend the pre- and post-assessment sessions and, if unable to attend any of these sessions, to attend a future assessment session at a nearby church assigned to the same condition. Participants who completed a measurement session were entered into periodic drawings for a $15 gift card.

Twelve hundred fifty-seven church members from 74 AME churches completed a baseline assessment and were randomized to either the FAN intervention or waitlist control. The mean age of the total sample was 54.1 years; 99% were African American, 76% were women, 32% were high school graduates, and 28% were college graduates. Fifty-four percent of church participants were married or a member of an unmarried couple, 43% had an annual household income of $0-$29,999, 37% had a household income of $30,000-$59,999, and 21% had an annual household income of at least $60,000. Sixty-two percent of participants were obese; however, 11% were of normal weight at baseline based on their body mass index (BMI), the average blood pressure at baseline was normal, and 93% were non-smokers at baseline.
At baseline and 15 months after baseline, daily fruit and vegetable consumption and self-reported moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in a typical week for the prior month were measured as study outcomes. The daily fruit and vegetable consumption outcome was measured by a modified version of the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) fruit and vegetable all-day screener, omitting 1 of the 10 items in the screener (french fries). The weekly MVPA outcome was measured by a modified version of the Community Health Activities Model Program for Seniors (CHAMPS) questionnaire, consisting of 36, instead of 41, items. The CHAMPS questionnaire items ask the respondent to report the total number of hours per week (from less than 1 hour to 9 hours or more) of doing various physical activities.

Key Findings

Graph of Study Results 

  • From baseline to 15-month follow-up, for all church members randomized (including those who did not provide data at follow-up), intervention church members reported increased leisure-time MVPA, while control church members reported decreased leisure-time MVPA (p=.02), after adjusting for church members nested within churches, implementation wave (1, 2, or 3), church size (small, medium, or large), and church member age, gender, and education (i.e., some college or higher versus high school graduate or less).

Graph of Study Results 

  • At 15-month follow-up, among church members with both baseline and follow-up data, members in intervention churches reported more hours of leisure-time MVPA weekly than members in control churches (p=.03), after adjusting for baseline hours of leisure-time MVPA weekly, church members nested within churches, implementation wave (1, 2, or 3), church size (small, medium, or large), and church member age, gender, and education (i.e., some college or higher versus high school graduate or less).

Graph of Study Results 

  • At 15-month follow-up, among church members with both baseline and follow-up data, members in intervention churches reported more cups of fruit and vegetables daily than members in control churches (p=.03), after adjusting for baseline cups of fruit and vegetables consumed daily, church members nested within churches, implementation wave (1, 2, or 3), church size (small, medium, or large), and church member age, gender, and education (i.e., some college or higher versus high school graduate or less).

Saunders, R. P., Wilcox, S., Baruth, M., & Dowda, M. (2014). Process evaluation methods, implementation fidelity results and relationship to physical activity and healthy eating in the Faith, Activity, and Nutrition (FAN) study. Evaluation and Program Planning, 43 (1), 93-102.

Condrasky, M. D., Baruth, M., Wilcox, S., Carter, C., & Jordan, J.F. (2013). Cooks training for Faith, Activity, and Nutrition project with AME churches in SC. Evaluation and Program Planning, 37 (1), 43-49.

Wilcox, S., Laken, M., Parrott, A. W., Condrasky, M., Saunders, R., Addy, C. L., Evans, R., Baruth, M., & Samuel, M. (2010). The Faith, Activity, and Nutrition (FAN) Program: Design of a participatory research intervention to increase physical activity and improve dietary habits in African American churches. Controlled Clinical Trials, 31 (4), 323-335.

Resnicow, K., McCarty, F., Blissett, D., Wang, T., Heitzler, C., & Lee, R. E. (2003). Validity of a modified CHAMPS physical activity questionnaire among African-Americans. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 35 (9), 1537-1545.

Thompson, F. E., Subar, A. F., Smith A. F., Midthune, D., Radimer, K. L., Kahle, L. L., & Kipnis, V. (2002). Fruit and vegetable assessment: Performance of 2 new short instruments and a food frequency questionnaire. Journal of the American Dietetic Association , 102 (12), 1764-1772.

Harada ND, Chiu V, King AC, Stewart AL. (2001). An Evaluation of Three Self-Report Physical Activity Instruments for Older Adults. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33 (6), 962-970.

Stewart AL, Mills KM, King AC, Haskell WL, Gillis D, Ritter PL. (2001). CHAMPS Physical Activity Questionnaire for Older Adults: Outcomes for Interventions. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 33 (7), 1126-1141.

Campbell MK, Demark-Wahnefried W, Symons M, Kalsbeek WD, Dodds J, Cowan A, Jackson B, Motsinger B, Hoben K, Lashley J, Demissie S, McClelland JW. (1999). Fruit and Vegetable Consumption and Prevention of Cancer: The Black Churches United for Better Health Project. American Journal of Public Health, 89 (9), 1390-1396.

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Updated: 07/21/2020