The Camden Coalition was at the inaugural Faithful Families Summit on September 8 in Raleigh, North Carolina, represented by our Faith in Prevention staff members Summer Tatum and Soley Berrios. The summit showcased the success of the Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More (Faithful Families) program, and was attended by representatives from the White House and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), along with about 200 Faithful Families participants from across the country.

Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More is a curriculum developed by Dr. Annie Hardison-Moody at North Carolina State University. The 6-9 week-long curriculum is designed to take advantage of the strong communities that are created by faith-based organizations such as churches, mosques, and temples. Trained “lay leaders” deliver the curriculum, which provides instruction in healthy eating and physical activity, to small groups at their faith-based organizations.

Camden is home to both a high concentration of faith-based organizations (around 400 people per organization) and a high burden of chronic disease (Camden County is ranked 19 out of New Jersey’s 21 counties in health outcomes), making Faithful Families a great match for the city. Our Faith in Prevention program, now in its second year, has seen great success. “We had no expectation that this program would have significant outcomes in 6 weeks, but we’ve seen the exact opposite,” said Summer Tatum, Program Manager for Community Engagement at the Coalition. Camden churches are starting successful fitness programs, while Camden residents are reaching their health goals. Family and community bonds are strengthening, all catalyzed by Faithful Families and Faith in Prevention.

Acacia Salatti, Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the US Department of Health and Human Services, gave the closing plenary, assuring the attendees that faith-based health programs like Faithful Families are a priority of the Obama administration. She discussed the importance of centering mental health and trauma when addressing health in disadvantaged communities, and quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on health equity and justice: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

The Coalition is looking forward to keeping the momentum of the Faithful Families Summit going at the Faith in Health forum that we are hosting Friday, September 16 in partnership with Get Healthy Camden, the New Jersey Department of Health, and Rutgers— Camden. The Faith in Health forum will bring the conversation about how faith based organizations impact health systems and health outcomes to Camden, convening faith and health leaders from across the region to discuss how initiatives like Faithful Families and Faith in Prevention can be a catalyst for change in our communities. Interested in attending? Call 856-365-9510 extension 2074 to reserve your seat.

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