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No Menthol Sunday, “Focus on Victory, Go Against the Grain,” was celebrated nationwide on May 21st. AMPLIFY spoke with the Cynthia Perry Ray Foundation Witness2Fitness Health & Wellness Initiative about their event and community health.

1) How has big tobacco impacted your congregation/community?

Most of the Houses of Worship/organizations we are connected to are in underserved areas. The smaller religious community in Los Angeles County, particularly Service Planning Area 6 (SPA 6), is not provided with much-needed information on health-related matters regularly, and where the numbers of various health disparities are incredibly high have been our target population. The more miniature Houses of Worship in LA County are plentiful and at our communities' hearts. They are in more locations, more accessible, can provide an intimate atmosphere, and have the ability to remain committed to a cause since they are not being pulled in a thousand different directions. The top five causes of death and premature death in SPA 6 are Coronary heart disease, Stroke, Lung Cancer, Diabetes, and Emphysema/COPD, which are catastrophic illnesses linked to tobacco usage.

2) What was the congregation's reaction to NMS?

We ask that the faith leader or president, during their pastoral emphasis or health segment on their agendas, bring attention to the information on the handout and what they may have personally picked up from it. We believe that participation as one of its influences would be of unparalleled importance and greatly benefit the attendees. Some have personal testimonies they don't mind sharing and are in awe of what they have read.

The response from most respondents was shocked and amazement, particularly regarding the high percentage of blacks who smoke and purchase menthols. The runner-up to that shocking information was how menthol could give the impression of being somewhat like medicine but is used to cover up the poison in cigarettes.

3) How can your ministry continue to impact health outcomes?

Good health is increasingly being identified as a global priority, particularly in minority communities. Our Witness2Fitness Health and Wellness Outreach utilizes the Social-Ecological Model to develop culturally and linguistically relevant and appropriate health education, risk reduction intervention and programs based on evidence-based interventions designed for the faith community. It focuses on various health disparities primarily affecting minorities, especially the African American/Black community.

Trust is still a potent issue in communities where history shows the medical profession has not always been so accommodating in advocating prevention, treatment, and survivorship in healthcare, but one of the experiments. Equipping those we feel would be able to carry out the message of health and wellness through Houses of Worship and with people with a like-minded spirit.

Cynthia Perry Ray Foundation Witness2Fitness Health & Wellness Initiative is the nonprofit outreach of the Gardena Valley & Vicinity Ministers' Wives & Ministers' Widows Sisterhood Connection was organized in April 2001 and has provided health and wellness education (primarily to the faith community) since 2011.


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