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National Cancer Institute (NCI)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

NCI Press Office

National Cancer Institute Expands National Faith-based Health Initiative for African American Churches: "Body & Soul: A Celebration of Healthy Eating & Living" Stresses Healthy Eating to Help Reduce Health Disparities

As part of its ongoing commitment to reduce cancer health disparities, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), one of the National Institutes of Health, has announced the expansion of a faith-based initiative to encourage African Americans nationwide to eat a healthy diet as part of an active lifestyle. Designed to help African Americans take charge of their health, "Body & Soul: A Celebration of Healthy Eating & Living" promotes the national recommendation for Americans to eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for better health. NCI is now offering African American churches a new, comprehensive program guide and training materials to help them incorporate the program into their activities.

"As we celebrate 'Take A Loved One to The Doctor Day' today, it is the perfect time to emphasize that African American churches are a highly respected institution in this country, and we know their influence can help build awareness among the African American community of the importance of eating a healthy diet," Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy G. Thompson said. "This initiative is one more way we can help empower African Americans to make healthy diet and lifestyle choices. It is imperative that we reduce the incidence of disease in the African American community."

"Take A Loved One to The Doctor Day" is part of a national campaign by HHS that focuses on closing the health gap between racial and ethnic minorities and the general population. The campaign encourages individuals to see a health care professional on September 21, 2004, or make an appointment for the near future.

African Americans are at high risk for cancer and many other serious and often fatal diseases, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. They have the highest rate of diagnosis and death from cancer overall than any other ethnic or minority group in the United States. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables promotes good health and can help lower the risk for cancer and some other illnesses. Yet on average, African Americans eat only about three servings a day.

'Body & Soul' works by combining pastoral leadership, church-wide activities, a church environment that supports healthy eating, and peer counseling. Based on five years of NCI-funded intervention research and an additional five years of an NCI and American Cancer Society joint effectiveness study, 'Body & Soul' has been shown to effectively increase the number of daily servings of fruits and vegetables that African Americans eat. NCI is now taking the lead to launch it nationwide.

"Churches have always played an important role in improving the status of African Americans in this country, and that has certainly included health," said Mark Clanton, M.D., Deputy Director for Cancer Care and Delivery Systems at the NCI. "I think that working through the church is a powerful grassroots approach that will get the African American community's attention on this important issue."

NCI has started to introduce 'Body & Soul' to major national African American faith-based organizations. Its national partners include the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the 1890s Historically Black Land Grant Colleges and Universities.

To order a free copy of the Body & Soul guide, churches can call 1-800-422-6237. For more information, please visit www.5aday.gov.

For more information about cancer, visit the NCI Web site at http://www.cancer.gov or call NCI's Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237).

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