Introduction: Black African communities in the U.K suffer from health disparities compared to the general population. This has been attributed to the lack of culturally sensitive interventions that are meaningful to them. Faith leaders are an integral part of the community and are known to have immense influence on health behaviour of congregants and community members. However, their role in health behaviour change (alcohol and tobacco use) has been largely neglected. The aim of this study is to explore the views of Black African Christians on the role of their faith leaders in their health behaviour, with particular focus on the extent of influence and mechanisms that foster this.
Methods: Eight (8) semi-structured interviews were conducted with Black African Christians between the ages of 25-44, from two churches in Leeds, UK. Data were analysed using the principles of thematic analysis.
Results: Findings revealed that faith leaders could play a very important role in the health behaviour of their congregants. Faith leaders are able to influence health behaviour not only on the individual level but also on a socio-cultural and environmental level. They exert such influence through several mediators including through scriptural influence, social influence and by serving as a role models. However, no single mediator has been found to be exclusively associated to health behaviour change.
Conclusion: Congregants view faith leaders as having an immense influence on their health behaviour. As a community resource, faith leaders could be better positioned to organize and foster community participation in health matters. Health promoters should thus consider collaborations with faith leaders to enhance the health of their community.
Keywords: Faith leaders; black Africans; health behavior; health promotion.