Background: The Alliance of Black Churches Health Project was begun in an effort to address the health problems of the African-American residents of two rural Virginia counties. Smoking cessation was chosen as the principal target behavior in one county. Church coalitions were chosen as the principal organizations through which to implement the interventions.
Method: A smoking cessation program was designed that combined one-on-one counseling with self-help materials and community-wide activities. To provide these services, up to two smoking cessation counselors were trained from participating churches. To evaluate the impact, population-based cohorts of smokers were assembled in each county using a door-to-door survey. Respondents were recontacted after 18 months. Smoking cessation (1-month continuous abstinence), stages of change, and exposure to the interventions were assessed.
Results: The overall smoking prevalence at baseline was 25.8%. At follow-up, the smoking cessation rate in the intervention county was 9.6% and in the control county 5.4% (P = 0.18). Among those attending church once a month or more, the respective quit rates were 10.5% and 5.9% (P = 0.20). There was significantly more progress along the stages of change in the intervention than in the control county. There was also higher awareness of and contact with smoking cessation programs in the former compared with the latter.
Conclusion: Smoking cessation interventions for African Americans can be successfully implemented through a church coalition. The interventions were associated with significant progress along the stages of cessation. Although the quit rate was higher in the intervention community, the difference was not significant.