Religion, health and medicine in African Americans: Implications for physicians

School of Social Work, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, United States
Journal of the National Medical Association (Impact Factor: 0.96). 03/2005; 97(2):237-49.
Source: PubMed


Recent years have seen a burgeoning of research and writing on the connections between religion and health. The very best of this work comes from epidemiologic studies of African Americans. This paper summarizes results of these investigations, including findings identifying effects of religious participation on both physical and mental health outcomes. Evidence mostly supports a protective religious effect on morbidity and mortality and on depressive symptoms and overall psychological distress among African Americans. This paper also carefully discusses what the results of these studies mean and do not mean, an important consideration due to frequent misinterpretations of findings on this topic. Because important distinctions between epidemiologic and clinical studies tend to get glossed over, reports of religion-health associations oftentimes draw erroneous conclusions that foster unrealistic expectations about the role of faith and spirituality in health and healing. Finally, implications are discussed for clinical practice, medical education and public health.

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    • "Yet, Haitians have a strong set of protective factors that are conducive to health educational programs including a strong work ethic; entrepreneurial spirit, extended family support system and increasing neighborhood-based social services [27]. Findings of health beliefs and compliance with African-Americans suggest multiple influences, including religion, spirituality and folklore [25]. African-Americans were found to be more than twice as likely to use home-remedies as Whites [28]. "
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    • "We used a semi-structured interview guide to conduct focus group discussions. The focus group interview guide was informed by key informant interviews among over twenty local African American faith leaders, peer-reviewed literature related to the local and national HIVAIDS epidemics [2], [15], [46], [51]–[53], engaging faith leaders in HIV prevention [39], [52], other literature highlighting the importance of spirituality and churches in African American culture [19], [20], [54]; and the opinions and experience of the Director of the Mayor’s Office of Faith Based Initiatives. The focus group guide included questions about faith leaders’ knowledge of HIV transmission and the local Philadelphia epidemic, factors contributing to Philadelphia’s HIV/AIDS epidemic, existing HIV/AIDS programs in their congregations, challenges and opportunities for addressing HIV/AIDS in a faith-based context, and leaders’ normative suggestions for how the faith community can enhance HIV prevention in Philadelphia. "
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