Faith, Activity, Nutrition: 24 community health advisors sought

By Andrew Brown

South Carolina United Methodists who are passionate about exercise, nutrition and faith are being sought as lay leaders for a new partnership program offered by the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.

The UMC is teaming up with the University of South Carolina Prevention Research Center to enable churches across the state to create healthier church environments through a new Faith, Activity, and Nutrition—or FAN—program.

Two people from each of the 12 districts in South Carolina (a total of 24 people) are needed to serve as community health advisors before the program gets started in local churches.

FAN is a faith-based program to help church leaders create a healthier church environment. Goals include becoming more physically active and eating more healthily, particularly eating more fruits and vegetables, eating whole grain foods instead of white rice and breads and eating less fat and less sodium. Funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, FAN will be open to any South Carolina UMC.

The project is led by Dr. Sara Wilcox, a professor at USC and a member of Washington Street UMC, Columbia.

“South Carolina has some of the highest rates in our nation of health conditions like hypertension, diabetes, and obesity,” Wilcox said. “But these conditions can be prevented or controlled through physical activity and healthy eating. The UMC, due to its size and focus on community outreach, has great potential to improve the health of members and communities in our state.”

Community health advisors will complete several self-paced training modules and participate in a daylong in-person training to learn how to work with churches in their district. Then they will schedule church trainings in a central district location and train local churches how to implement the program and tailor it to their congregations. Community health advisors will also make monthly calls to key church leaders and serve as a resource to churches.

Wilcox said a health-related background is not required, but being passionate about a healthy lifestyle is essential.

“A holistic approach to health that includes spiritual, mental and physical health is consistent with Scripture and also with John Wesley’s teachings and practices,” Wilcox said. “FAN’s approach of training community health advisors from within each UMC district to help other churches in their district seems like a natural fit with Methodism.”

FAN community health advisors will be trained in late fall, and the program will begin in churches in the spring.

A stipend of up to $1,000 per community health advisor will be provided based on the satisfactory completion of required documents and activities.

To learn more or get involved, contact Deborah Kinnard, FAN program manager, at [email protected] or 803-777-6292.

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