U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Focusing on Faith: Making Health a Priority

In the inaugural year of Kidney Sundays, the National Kidney Disease Education Program partnered with the American Diabetes Association (ADA), National Coalition of Pastors' Spouses (NCPS), and Chi Eta Phi national nursing sorority to recognize National Kidney Month.

Faith organizations from around the country conducted Kidney Sundays events on March 25, 2012, to educate their congregations about the importance of kidney health. They included health screenings, provided by Chi Eta Phi nurses, for their members, testing for high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. Congregations also recognized Diabetes Alert Day on March 27 to discuss the connection diabetes has to kidney disease.

The National Coalition of Pastors' Spouses president, Vivian Berryhill of New Philadelphia Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn., explains why a national kidney health event is important and talks about what other faith organizations can do to help their congregants stay healthier longer.

What is the National Coalition of
Pastors' Spouses?

The National Coalition of Pastors' Spouses, (NCPS) is a nonprofit, non-partisan multi-denominational network of 2,500+ clergy spouses, committed to raising awareness and addressing health disparities across this nation... using faith groups as health hubs.

Why is health education and outreach
such an important concern for your organization's members?

NCPS was formed in January 2001 for one main purpose and one common mission: addressing the spiritual and physical wellness of those in our churches, communities, and neighborhoods. For the past 11 years, we have focused on tackling health care issues and concerns which disproportionately impact communities of color by providing useful information aimed at prevention, education, training, awareness and life-style changes. African Americans rank highest in diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and other debilitating diseases. Therefore, pastors' spouses, as servant leaders, are committed to helping stem further proliferation of these diseases within our ranks and within our communities.

Why is NCPS joining with NKDEP, the American Diabetes Association, and Chi Eta Phi to conduct the first national Kidney Sundays event?

NCPS recognizes the African-American church as the bedrock institution in most communities across this nation. Pastors' spouses know that any awareness campaign, be it health, education, political, or civic in nature––whose aim is to reach the masses at the grassroots level––must emanate from the faith community. With that being said, NCPS is honored to serve as one of the charter partners for the national Kidney Sunday effort. It's a natural fit for NCPS to work with our national kidney partners during National Kidney Month to get this valuable information to those we love.

Photo of NCPS president, Vivian Berryhill.
Vivian Berryhill, President of NCPS

Do you think that faith members are aware that diabetes and high blood pressure are the 2 leading risk factors for kidney disease?

I think we still have lots of work ahead of us in terms of educating people on the serious effects of diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, and eating habits, and how each relate to kidney health. Efforts such as Kidney Sundays are a great start to help pastors' spouses get the conversations started. This faith-focused kidney awareness campaign gives churches an opportunity to post on church bulletin boards, to disseminate via church bulletins, and to preach from the pulpit about information in a forum where we know people trust us and will pay attention.

Does your congregation offer any other health education and awareness activities to members? If yes, what types?

My husband, Pastor Chester L. Berryhill Jr., who was diagnosed with pre-diabetes several years ago, has implemented culinary change within our local church in Memphis. Our meals now feature baked foods, salads, greens, and beans without the customary fatback. Two or three times per year we have what is known as "salad and soup Sunday." He is not the only pastor who, because of health reasons, has geared his church on a healthy eating course. This is a trend that I anticipate will spread exponentially over the next few years.


March 5, 2014

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