Rationale: As community health interventions advance from being faith-placed to authentically faith-based, greater discussion is needed about the theory, practice, and ethics of delivering health messages embedded within a religious worldview. While there is much potential to leverage religion to promote health behaviors and improve health outcomes, there is also a risk of co-opting religious teachings for strictly biomedical ends.
Objective: To describe the development, implementation, and ethical dimensions of a conceptual model for religiously-tailoring health messages.
Method: We used data from 6 focus groups and 19 interviews with women aged 40 and older sampled from diverse Muslim community organizations to map out how religious beliefs and values impact mammography-related behavioral, normative and control beliefs. These beliefs were further grouped into those that enhance mammography intention (facilitators) and those that impede intention (barriers). In concert with a multi-disciplinary advisory board, and by drawing upon leading theories of health behavior change, we developed the "3R" model for crafting religiously-tailored health messages.
Results: The 3R model addresses barrier beliefs, which are beliefs that negatively impact adopting a health behavior, by (i) reframing the belief within a relevant religious worldview, (ii) reprioritizing the belief by introducing another religious belief that has greater resonance with participants, and (iii) reforming the belief by uncovering logical flaws and/or theological misinterpretations. These approaches were used to create messages for a peer-led, mosque-based, educational intervention designed to improve mammography intention among Muslim women.
Conclusions: There are benefits and potential ethical challenges to using religiously tailored messages to promote health behaviors. Our theoretically driven 3R model aids interventionists in crafting messages that address beliefs that hinder healthy behaviors. It is particularly useful in the context of faith-based interventions for it highlights the ethical choices that must be made when incorporating religious values and beliefs in tailored messages.
Keywords: Cancer screening; Community-based participatory research; Health education; Health promotion; Muslim health; Religion and health.
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