Setting health-related policies are, perhaps, one of the first steps in creating healthy environments, influencing behavior change, and addressing health equity on a systemic level. When health-related policy is incorporated into churches, the potential to change the health of a community is impactful. And, when teens lead the policy charge, encouraging church leaders to adopt health-related policies can be simple.
That’s what teens found out throughout a three-year partnership between Wholespire and the 7th District AME Church’s Young Peoples Division (YPD). Through The HYPE Project®, youth teams were able to get more than 60 health-related policies passed at their churches. Examples of policy changes made by teens and their church leaders include:
- Offering water, fruit, and vegetables when meals are served,
- Including physical activity breaks during services and meetings, and
- Removing saltshakers from tables in church dining halls.
Teens played many important roles in the development and passage of these health-related policies. They helped decide what policies were most appropriate for their churches, wrote the policies, and presented them to church leaders for approval.
Sometimes, policy change requires changing a policy that already exists rather than creating a new one. At Mother Emanual AME Church in Charleston, teens worked with their culinary committee to update their kitchen policy. This updated policy was changed to include healthy food choices on their menu.
The HYPE Project® teaches teens that promoting policies is key to getting everyone in on the healthy eating and active living movement. Teens developed activities to promote health-related policies like creating a walking program, producing physical activity videos, and hosting kick-off events.
At Pine Grove AME Church in Columbia, teens hosted the Reshape your Diet and Witness the Fitness community event at the Pine Grove Community Recreation Center to promote their church policies and to encourage the community to adopt a healthy lifestyle. They offered a healthy snack taste test, games, fruits of the spirit canvas painting, line dancing, healthy recipes, and door prizes.
“The youth participation at this event made me proud. Because of this event, the church is starting a community faith walk beginning the first Saturday in the month at Harbison Park,” said Miranda Blocker, YPD director at Pine Grove AME Church.
At Bethany AME Church in Union, teens successfully encouraged their church leadership to create health-related policies for their kitchen. In addition to serving fruits and vegetables at church-hosted events and removing the salt shakers from tables, they decided to stop serving fried foods altogether. After promoting the policies, they’ve seen individual behavior change.
“We noticed that a lot of our church members have started to exercise more (such as joining gyms, walking) and eat healthier,” said Rena Goode. “We also noticed that our kitchen committee has increased healthy food choices for meal service.”
Through youth engagement and The HYPE Project®, the 7th District AME Church’s teens are taking on larger leadership roles and becoming community changemakers. Visit The HYPE Project® page to learn how teens can make change happen in your community.