Clinical Trials Extend Beyond Treatment: Faith-Based Project Helps Appalachians Get Healthier

Clinical Trials Extend Beyond Treatment: Faith-Based Project Helps Appalachians Get Healthier

Did you know that clinical trials look at new ways to prevent cancer, as well as how to detect or treat it?  The WVU Cancer Institute’s Cancer Prevention and Control participated in a prevention trial last year with the Appalachia Community Cancer Network (ACCN) to promote health and raise awareness about cancer prevention and early detection across the Appalachian Region.

ACCN partnered with churches across the Appalachian region of Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia to implement the Faith-Based Initiative to Promote Health in Appalachia.  Past ACCN projects have demonstrated that collaboration with faith communities is an effective way to reach a variety of community members including men and women of all ages, individuals, and families.  This National Cancer Institute-funded prevention study involved over 750 participants enrolled through 27 churches, with 160 of those individuals coming from 5 West Virginia churches. Participating churches ranged in size from small to large and denominational to non-denominational.  Half of the church communities implemented a 12 month walking and healthy eating program, called Walk by Faith.  The other half of the church communities offered 12 educational classes on different kinds of cancer and appropriate screenings, called Ribbons of Faith.  After the first year, churches were offered the arm of the study in which they had not initially participated. Community and church leaders were integral to the success of the project, making the effort a  truly community based, participatory research study.

Personal anecdotes from the project include:

"Because of the Walk by Faith program, I have been walking every day very intentionally, trying to reach my step goal of at least 10,000 to 12,000 steps.  I’m also trying to eat more healthy foods like fruits and vegetables and have eliminated some snacks and higher calorie foods.  I’ve lost 16.5 pounds and I feel great.”…… Anonymous Participant One

"Last year when we started the program, my blood pressure and cholesterol numbers were too high. This year when I had my physical, the doctor’s report showed that both my BP and cholesterol numbers were down. I walk daily and have tried to eat a healthier diet with more fruits, vegetables and less fast food.”… Anonymous Participant Two

This project’s data will guide the development of future interventions designed to encourage Appalachian residents to prevent cancer through healthy lifestyles that include increased physical activity and good eating choices.  To find out more about this study or other Cancer Prevention and Control programs, contact us at CPC@hsc.wvu.edu.

Story written by Amy Allen 
Assistant Director for Cancer Prevention and Control at WVU Cancer Institute 

Photos by Amanda Mills at the CDC

-WVU Cancer-

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