Church Members STAR In Initiative For Better Health

Pentecost Baptist Church member Bessie Hughes remembers all the details of what she learned in the STAR program. “It was everything to me,” Hughes says. “I loved how they showed us how to cook better, and the food was good.”

Cheryl Kegler, left, and Bessie Hughes
learned how to stay healthier through
BCM’s STAR program.

Fellow member Cheryl Kegler is equally enthusiastic. “It helped me a lot, especially in learning how to prepare healthy meals,” says Kegler, who has high blood pressure. “I loved the recipes, popcorn with marshmallows especially, and how to cook vegetables.”

STAR (Strategies To Trim and Reduce), a Baptist Community Ministries faith-based program from its Congregational Wellness division, has been helping people get healthier since 2011.  Pentecost Baptist on Harrison Avenue is one of 60 local churches that have participated in the 13-week program, which focuses on weight loss and reducing high blood pressure.

Congregational Wellness trains church nurses or lay leaders to lead STAR sessions at their churches. Members learn from fellow members about healthier eating, exercise, cooking techniques, the importance of taking medication and how to communicate with the doctor. STAR is far from a lecture series. Church members interact through physical activity, prayer, meditation and reflection—along with cooking healthier food.

The majority of STAR participants have been African-Americans over age 40, a group with a higher incidence of high blood pressure. Simple changes for people with this condition can bring health benefits. During 2016, 132 church members completed the STAR program. Sixty-four percent lost weight and 50 percent lowered blood pressure. The highest percentage of congregants who lowered blood pressure were in the pre-hypertension category.

STAR shows faith-based strategies are working to improve health. Congregational Wellness, one of two BCM direct service divisions, is staying focused on its unique mission—helping New Orleans stay healthier through outreach to church congregations.