Partnering with Churches to Conduct a Wide-Scale Health Screening of an Urban, Segregated Community

J Community Health. 2020 Feb;45(1):98-110. doi: 10.1007/s10900-019-00715-9.


West Side Alive (WSA) is a partnership among pastors, church members and health researchers with the goal of improving health in the churches and surrounding community in the West Side of Chicago, a highly segregated African American area of Chicago with high rates of premature mortality and social disadvantage. To inform health intervention development, WSA conducted a series of health screenings that took place in seven partner churches. Key measures included social determinants of health and healthcare access, depression and PTSD screeners, and measurement of cardiometabolic risk factors, including blood pressure, weight, cholesterol and hemoglobin A1C (A1C). A total of 1106 adults were screened, consisting of WSA church members (n = 687), members of the local community served by the church (n = 339) and 80 individuals with unknown church status. Mean age was 52.8 years, 57% were female, and 67% reported at least one social risk factor (e.g. food insecurity). Almost all participants had at least one cardiovascular risk factor (92%), including 50% with obesity, 79% with elevated blood pressure and 65% with elevated A1C. A third of participants experienced ≥ 4 potentially traumatic events and 26% screened positive for depression and/or post-traumatic stress disorder. Participants were given personalized health reports and referred to services as needed. Information from the screenings will be used to inform the design of interventions targeting the West Side community and delivered in partnership with the churches. Sharing these results helped mobilize community members to improve their own health and the health of their community.

Keywords: African American; Health disparities; Segregation; Surveillance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Black or African American
  • Chicago
  • Clergy*
  • Community Health Workers / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Health Promotion / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / organization & administration*
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Health / methods*
  • Religion
  • Urban Population