Activities & Initiatives

12-Week Family Fitness Program

A three-month summer fitness course, now in its fifth year, is held each Saturday morning at church sites. It provides nutrition education, physical activity and faith motivational/support sessions for participants.

The goals of the program are to reduce obesity and related health risks and to promote healthier lifestyles among African American families (ages 7-79). Parents, grandparents and children work together to modify their eating habits and physical activity patterns. Pre- and post-surveys and health assessments evaluate program outcomes.

Fry-Free Zones

Effective January 2008, all ten churches involved in the Genesis Health Project pledged to instruct “church food preparers” to avoid fried foods within the church environment including all church fellowship events. Pastors also continue pulpit messages about alternative cooking methods.

As a result of this initiative, congregants are adopting new cooking behaviors for themselves and their families. The traditional menu for church-sponsored events has undergone a significant revamping. For decades as long as most congregants can remember summer picnics and year-round fellowship programs typically offered such items as fried chicken, potato salad, white bread, pastries, Kool-Aid and soda. Now these church kitchens are serving baked chicken, tossed salad, whole wheat bread, fruit, 1% milk, water, juice, coffee, and tea. Most of the cars are now parked in outer spaces of the church lots, with parishioners opting to walk farther to get to the building.

Men’s Health Seminars

The Pastors’ Health Council, in partnership with the Prostate Cancer Education Council and SUNY Upstate Medical University, host sessions entitled, ‘Take Charge of Your Health.” These four-hour men’s health educational sessions are held at inner-city churches and present such topics as prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, stroke, heart disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, hypertension, stress reduction and male health advocacy.

Women’s Health Seminars

Four-hour educational sessions on topics of interest to women are held at inner-city churches, targeting diverse groups of women on issues such as HIV/AIDS, breast cancer, health literacy and stress management. In September 2008, Dr. Sandra Millon-Underwood, Professor of Nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and a health disparities researcher, provided the keynote presentation for the inaugural seminar focused on health advocacy and women’s roles in promoting men’s health in families and communities.

Tennis Shoes’ Sunday

Annually in June, congregants and pastors from ten churches wear tennis shoes to church and participate in a two- to three-mile walk following Sunday morning services. Tennis Shoes’ Sunday provides a forum to promote social-capital among churches and the community. Pastors lead their congregations as they engage in role-modeling behaviors. We have formulated a competition within the program to produce an incentive to the church with the highest number of program participants. This added feature has been well received and has increased program participation.

Youth Health Literacy Book Program

Effective September 2008, Genesis Health Project program participants are asked to bring a book for children of color (ages 5-17) concerning health and well-being.

Barbershop Education Program

The program provides culturally sensitive information about prostate cancer and related chronic diseases to African Americans and other men of color at black inner-city barbershops (i.e., risk factors, symptoms, prevention, screenings/exams, the importance of early detection, treatment options and referral information) and issues facing the non-insured or under-insured.

While many men avoid doctors’ offices, they need to make regular trips to the barbershop. An integral part of this program is the Prostate Cancer Education Council, which is an interdisciplinary advisory group of physicians, educators, government officials, prostate cancer survivors and lay persons that meets to discuss prostate cancer issues and men’s health concerns. Other community partners involved in this program have included The Nation of Islam, Firefighters of Color United in Syracuse, the Central New York Association of Minority Police and campus fraternities and other student organizations.

Breast Cancer Awareness and Education Program

Breast cancer is one of the most common causes of cancer deaths among African American women, who have the highest death rates from breast cancer of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States. The Breast Cancer Awareness and Education Program (BCAEP) was funded in 2013 by the Central New York affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. The goals of BCAEP were to provide education about breast cancer, breast cancer warning signs and risk factors, ways to lower breast cancer risk, ways to improve chances of early detection and survival, and where to access low-cost or no-cost mammography screenings. BCAEP provided this education through the 12-Week Healthy Living program and a series of church-based educational seminars.

This program partners Syracuse University with churches to provide six two-hour workshops to help congregants develop leadership skills to create and strengthen their church health ministries and sustain health promotion planning. As part of the Genesis Project, the Bridging the Gap: Community-Based Learning Practicum partners SU Health and Wellness students with Genesis Project programs through 25-hour internships. The students, as future healthcare leaders and policy makers, learn to address health disparities and major public health concerns that plague poor and underserved populations.

Bridging The Gap: Community-Based Learning Practicum

Syracuse University’s students enrolled in undergraduate courses HTW 307 Culturally Competent Healthcare and HTW 311 Health Literacy are required to complete a 25-hour internship in a community-based environment working with vulnerable populations. Many students are placed in programs within the Genesis Health Project.

Sunday Health Education Initiative

Genesis provides a listing of health information to all ten churches to be read during the Sunday morning church services weekly. This consistent “health voice” reaches more than 2,000 congregants every week. These brief messages focus on nutrition, physical activity, healthy lifestyles and disease prevention.