A multi-university team of faculty members and community leaders recently recruited University of Southern Mississippi (USM) health professor and Mississippi IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE) Telenutrition Center Director Dr. Jennifer L. Lemacks to collaborate on a $2.6 million NIH grant. The five-year grant will be used to compare strategies for applying a church-based health program to reduce cardiovascular disease risk in the community.

As part of the team, led by Dr. Penny Ralston of Florida State University, Dr. Lemacks will provide support for a 45-member coalition of churches in Florida known as the Health for Hearts United Collaborative.

“I am very pleased and excited to serve as a collaborator on this project,” Dr. Lemacks said. “There is a huge need to increase church support for health interventions to provide vast implications and opportunities for church-based health interventions in health care practice. Churches have a long-standing legacy in their communities and are key resources and partners to reach underserved populations.”

The team will compare the effectiveness of using trained church members as health leaders to having health professionals assist the churches to conduct cardiovascular disease-reducing programs. Dr. Lemacks will serve as an outside consultant to assist with updating the nutrition and physical training materials for both the health professional and church member trainings. In addition, she will serve as an external reviewer of church plans as the health leaders prepare to implement their interventions and assist with intended intervention delivery.

About Mississippi INBRE: Mississippi INBRE is a network of colleges and universities, designed to build a biomedical research infrastructure in Mississippi. Our mission is to reach out to Mississippians in order to improve health throughout the state and to engage talented researchers and students in biomedical research projects that will increase the state’s research competitiveness as well as impact the health of citizens of Mississippi.

*This article was originally published by the University of Southern Mississippi. Click here to view the original article.