Long-term goals: prevent childhood obesity through improved parenting practices along with home and church environments related to obesity; expand Extension capacity for community-engaged research and collaborative programming with faith-based organizations; enhance Extension strategies for recruiting and training community volunteers; and train future health professionals to provide culturally appropriate, collaborative, community-based health programs. Research, Extension and Education objectives support each of these goals.
In a group-randomized design, 24 black churches will host nine-week Extension childhood obesity prevention and family financial literacy programs, in random order one year apart. Parents/caregivers and their children age six to ten participate in separate, complementary evidence-based programs offered by Extension and hosted by churches. Extension personnel teach adults and train congregation members to teach children. A committee of congregation members is supported to implement policy, systems and environmental changes. University students are involved in all aspects of the project.
Primary research outcomes include: parental self-efficacy for obesity-prevention behaviors; child self-efficacy for healthy food and physical activity behaviors, parenting practices related to food and physical activity; and the home food and physical activity environment. Primary Extension outcomes include Extension personnel self-efficacy and perceived partnership synergy related to collaborating with faith-based organizations. Education outcomes include: perceived student competence related to addressing health disparities, health education planning and implementation, and program evaluation; and student perception of the value of Extension for collaborative community-based health education and future career potential. Standard Extension program evaluation tools provide additional data.
Conclusion and Implications
Four churches (37 families) participated in the first year of the project and provided baseline data. The randomized control design presented challenges for Extension personnel who deliver the programs. Strategies for randomization were revised to inform Extension personnel of which program their church will receive earlier, prior to baseline data collection, to allow more time for preparation and scheduling. Research and church personnel are blinded to condition prior to baseline data collection.