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MCOHA Faithful Families Program: Connecting faith and health to improve the wellness of Morris County Communities!

The Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs (MCOHA) is working to improve the health of the Morris County’s residents by partnering with the faith-based organizations through grants from Atlantic Health System and the New Jersey Department of Health. MCOHA is currently working with the International Center for the Family (CIF) located at 24 East Clinton Street, Dover, NJ. The members of this faith-based organization have been learning about healthy eating and physical activity through the Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More Program (Faithful Families). By providing this program that includes six to nine classes, MCOHA’s goal is to educate the residents about healthy choices and behaviors and to empower them to make positive and permanent health-related changes. The participants have been gaining the skills that they need to buy and prepare nutritious, cost-effective foods, and to increase their physical activities. 

Faithful Families is a practice-tested health promotion intervention that promotes healthy eating and physical activity in communities of faith. The curriculum developed by Dr. Annie Hardison-Moody at North Carolina State University is co-taught by nutrition and physical activity educators and trained lay leaders from faith-based organizations in small group sessions. Faithful Families can be used by any faith community, and the participants of the classes not only receive great education, they also taste a new recipe each week and take home a Faithful Families present! 

Lay leaders bring the spiritual elements into each session and also serve as an important connection to the church community, helping to identify and spearhead environmental and policy changes.  The policies extend beyond the group participating in the classes and have a long-term continuous effect.  Policies are commitments from the church’s leadership and members to continue the promise to change their choices and have healthier lives.  

The program includes events like basic health screenings with blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose screenings. The purpose of these screenings is twofold: to publicize and invite participation in the Faithful Families program, and to gather initial data about the target communities. Faithful Families sessions are held at each church, engaging the participants who self-selected to participate in the group. Class participants learn how to plan menus, incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diets, read nutrition labels, and plan family-friendly exercise. Completion of the program leads to each group planning and implementing an environmental change and a policy change for their church. Examples of past adopted policies have included planting a community garden (environmental change) and providing water and healthy snacks at events (policy change). 

MCOHA has three years of experience of working with different communities, has built positive relationships with faith leaders, and is ready to continue the expansion of the program to other underserved areas of Morris County. By continuing this program, and through partnerships with the faith communities, the goal is to help to reduce the risk of excess weight and obesity among the Hispanic residents while addressing health-related priorities such as health literacy, healthy lifestyles, and chronic diseases. 

MCOHA is enthusiastic about the interest and participation of the members of the faith communities and appreciates the support received from Atlantic Health System and the New Jersey Department of Health towards this program. We are working together to create a culture of wellness within each faith-based organization while supporting healthier and stronger communities.

About the Grantee

Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs (MCOHA)

MCOHA helps improve the lives of the Hispanic and low- income residents of Morris County and surrounding communities by providing direct social services, education, and client advocacy. Our vision is to inspire hope and community integration and to help build a community that promotes cultural heritage while ensuring the health and well-being of the individuals and families that we serve.