November 18, 2013
M-PACT’s pilot session at Maple Springs Baptist Church raises awareness for men and
their health partners about prostate cancer early detection and screening.

School of Public Health (SPH) researchers met with faith leaders from Prince George’s County in early November to discuss long-term strategies for meeting community health needs.

Some of the critical issues identified were a need for preventive care and health education, and the development of free health clinics and centers.

The School of Public Health’s goal for the forum and ongoing relationship with local faith organizations is to create lasting solutions that will have a sustainable effect on the community, said Dean Jane Clark.

“In discussing the critical issue of our project’s sustainability, our hope is that we can make an impact not only for the present, but also the future,” she said.

Faith communities participating in the discussion included First United Methodist Church, Greater Beulah Baptist Church, St. Paul Church, Miracle Center of Faith Missionary Baptist Church, Greater Saint John Church and Mt. Victory Baptist Church. 

Dr. Cheryl L. Holt, an associate professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, has been building relationships with these local churches for several years through her CHAMP Health cancer education projects, which include the M-PACT (Men’s Prostate Awareness Church Training) program and Project HEAL (Health through Early Awareness and Learning).

Minetta Coles, Community Health Advisor from Maple Springs
Baptist Church, relays important information to female participants
about prostate cancer awareness and screening for the men
 in their lives.

Sponsored by the American Cancer Society, M-PACT is a faith-based intervention program designed to increase African American men’s informed decision making about prostate cancer screening. Project HEAL, also a long-term intervention program, is supported by the National Cancer Institute and aims to increase screening for breast, prostate, and colorectal cancer through African American faith-based settings. 

The CHAMP (Community Health Awareness, Messages, and Prevention) Health projects use safe and familiar faith-based environments to build relationships between researchers and community members. Initiatives include training local congregation members as “community health advisors” who can help educate peers and assist with screening and treatment options. These programs have already been effective in increasing knowledge about cancer, cancer screening behaviors, and perceived benefits of screening.

Holt, together with Dr. Muhiuddin Haider, research associate professor of environmental health, led the forum to discuss ways to sustain the impact of the educational initiatives introduced via Holt’s community-based cancer prevention projects.

Dr. Haider recommended several strategies to accomplish this -- including that the churches formally establish health ministries, dedicate a portion of church funds to support the health promotion activities and continue to train and support community health advisors working in the congregations.

Holt and Haider were joined by Col. Jimmie Slade, Executive Director of Community Ministry of Prince George’s County.  Community Ministry serves as a liaison to the faith-based community, and plays a key role in the aforementioned projects.  This includes building the faith-based partnerships and playing a central role in project staffing and scientific decision making.

African Americans are 25 percent more likely to die from all cancers than Whites, and early detection through screening, along with preventive health care, is critical to saving lives. By partnering with communities to reach people where they live, work, play and pray, public health researchers at the University of Maryland are hoping to have a substantial – and sustainable – impact on reducing health disparities and extending lives.

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