A Church-Based Project in Gadsden and Leon Counties

Funded by the National Institute on Minority Health & Health Disparities 


Project Overview

Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and is a particular concern for African Americans. In Florida, heart disease and strokes are a major issue with mortality rates higher for African Americans than for other groups in the state. Further, North Florida, including Gadsden and Leon counties, have some of the highest rates for heart disease and strokes in Florida.


Project Goal

The overall goal of this project is to disseminate the outcomes of the NIH funded project “Reducing Cardiovascular Risk in Mid-life and Older African Americans,” by implementing and evaluating the Heath  for Hearts United Leadership Institute (HHU Lead) using a three phase model: Training, Planning and Delivery.


Desired Project Outcomes

1.      Improved health behaviors and health outcomes (HHU Lead church leaders)

  • Increased consumption of fruits, vegetables, and calcium rich foods
  • Decreased consumption of fat, sugar, and sodiumIncreased habitual physical activity
  • Improved clinical outcomes (BMI, blood pressure, circumferences)

2.      Implemented health programming in HHU churches

3.      Improved CVD awareness by target audiences in HHU churches



Research Team

Penny Ralston, Ph.D., Principal Investigator

K.A.S. Wickrama, Ph.D., Co-Investigator, University of Georgia

Arrie Battle, Community Co-Investigator

Cynthia M. Harris, Ph.D., DABT, Collaborator

Jasminka Ilich-Ernst, Ph.D., Collaborator, Florida State University

Catherine Coccia, Ph.D., Collaborator, Florida International University

Jennifer Lemacks, Ph.D., Collaborator, University of Southern Mississippi

Iris Young-Clark, Ph.D., FSU Project Coordinator

Celeste Brickler-Hart, M.D., Medical Advisor


For more information about the project, please contact:

Penny A. Ralston, Ph.D., pralston@fsu.edu, (850) 645-8110

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