The Effect of a Priest-Led Intervention on the Choice and Preference of Soda Beverages: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial in Catholic Parishes

Ann Behav Med. 2020 May 25;54(6):436-446. doi: 10.1093/abm/kaz060.


Background: Latin America ranks among the regions with the highest level of intake of sugary beverages in the world. Innovative strategies to reduce the consumption of sugary drinks are necessary.

Purpose: Evaluate the effect of a one-off priest-led intervention on the choice and preference of soda beverages.

Methods: We conducted a pragmatic cluster-randomized trial in Catholic parishes, paired by number of attendees, in Chimbote, Peru between March and June of 2017. The priest-led intervention, a short message about the importance of protecting one's health, was delivered during the mass. The primary outcome was the proportion of individuals that choose a bottle of soda instead of a bottle of water immediately after the service. Cluster-level estimates were used to compare primary and secondary outcomes between intervention and control groups utilizing nonparametric tests.

Results: Six parishes were allocated to control and six to the intervention group. The proportion of soda selection at baseline was ~60% in the intervention and control groups, and ranged from 56.3% to 63.8% in Week 1, and from 62.7% to 68.2% in Week 3. The proportion of mass attendees choosing water over soda was better in the priest-led intervention group: 8.2% higher at Week 1 (95% confidence interval 1.7%-14.6%, p = .03), and 6.2% higher at 3 weeks after baseline (p = .15).

Conclusions: This study supports the proof-of-concept that a brief priest-led intervention can decrease sugary drink choice.

Clinical trial information: ISRCTN, ISRCTN24676734. Registered 25 April 2017,

Keywords: Behavioral economics; Carbonated beverages; Catholicism; Consumer behavior; Faith based organizations; Pragmatic clinical trials; Randomized controlled trials.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Carbonated Beverages*
  • Catholicism
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Clergy*
  • Dietary Sugars*
  • Drinking Behavior*
  • Drinking Water
  • Female
  • Health Promotion* / methods
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Peru
  • Proof of Concept Study


  • Dietary Sugars
  • Drinking Water