“Graduates” from the first FMBC Living Well classes held January-February 2017.

The Wellness Coalition works to develop partnerships and to employ community action strategies in order to advance a culture of wellness and to improve health care access in the River Region. One of those strategies involves offering chronic disease self-management programs (CDSMP) to the public with the help of church Lay Leaders. The Wellness Coalition is licensed to certify Lay Leaders to teach an evidence-based Stanford University CDSMP called “Living Well Alabama.”

We recently certified four Lay Leaders from First Missionary Baptist Church of Hayneville to offer this 2-hour, 1-day a week course taught over a 6-week period to members of their rural community. By enabling these Lay Leaders to teach these courses throughout the year in their congregation and community, we have increased opportunities for health care access in Lowndes County. In a recent conversation with church leaders, we discovered the church’s first offering of the Living Well program had a big impact on the church and community. Bishop Aaron McCall, the church’s pastor, shared his thoughts in a Q&A session below.

How does Living Well Alabama fit within your mission as a church?

Bishop McCall: The mission of First Missionary Baptist Church is to show the love of Jesus Christ to our community and the world. We believe that to do that is to minister to the whole man, Spirit, mind body and soul. We believe 3 John 2 which states, “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.” We believe that it is God’s will that we are healthy in body as well as spirit. This course is a useful tool to help congregates remain healthy while managing their health challenges.

Can you see your church using Living Well as a part of your teaching work in years to come?

We will continue to offer this course as long as there is interest. We have given it the name of First Baptist Health and Wellness Ministry.

How have complications of chronic disease affected the lives of your church members and the lives of the members of your community?

As a pastor of many years, I have watched numerous members suffer with chronic illnesses. They had no resources to help them manage. They would succumb to the illness either by an untimely death or suffer other complications such as blindness and amputations, as well as become bed-ridden due to the lack of management skills they or their caretaker had. Many have become addicted to prescriptions and other forms of self-medications that tend to exacerbate the problem they are already facing. It is indeed true that, “people perish for the lack of knowledge.”

What stood out to you in this first cycle of Living Well?

The entire class set future goals. Each goal was centered on what they felt they had accomplished from the class. One goal that stood out came from a participant that was concerned about her eating habits. She was eating whatever she wanted and whenever she wanted. She decided that she would start a daily food journal. She would record what she ate every day. In doing this she would monitor her food portions, serving sizes, calorie intake, and read food labels. Along with an exercise regimen, she would be able to lose weight, improve heart health and improve her A1C number. She was such an enthusiastic participant. I believe she will reach her goal.

Living Well Moves People to Action

A key focus of Living Well is to help individuals learn how to develop an action plan. Creating an action plan involves coming up with something you would like to change about yourself, including something you are doing in regards to your health. Every participant in Living Well is encouraged to make a weekly action plan that better enables them to work toward positive results.

Living Well Alabama is beneficial, not only to those with chronic diseases, but those who want to prevent chronic disease. First Missionary Baptist Church Congregational Leader Delois Pickney, who several years ago received a lung transplant, reflected on how teaching the course personally affected her.

“Helping others gave me a feeling of accomplishment,” said Pickney. “Providing information on managing chronic illnesses was absolutely a benefit. It caused me to stop and take a look at what I can do to better manage my chronic condition.”

The information shared by Bishop McCall and Delois Pickney illustrates that the leaders and members of First Missionary Baptist Church have worked diligently to improve the health of their community, their church, and themselves. Living Well is in full effect and is poised to make an impact as individuals taking the classes work to become healthier and more engaged in the wellness of their community.

This program is offered to many churches, organizations, agencies, and shelters and we are looking for additional partners for Lay Leader training. If you are interested in becoming a Lay Leader, or want to know more about taking Living Well classes, please call The Wellness Coalition at 334-293-6502 or visit thewellnesscoalition.org/livingwell.

Made possible with funding from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.