Grant funds research on comparing strategies to improve heart health

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Health for Hearts United volunteer leaders, church members, guests and staff gather for NIH Gift Announcement event that was held on Nov. 4, 2021 in Tallahassee.

A multi-university team of faculty and community representatives recently announced a prestigious National Institutes of Health grant to compare two strategies for implementing a church-based health program to reduce cardiovascular disease risk.

Led by Penny Ralston, FSU professor, dean emeritus of the College of Health and Human Sciences and director of the Center on Better Health and Life for Underserved Populations, the $2.6 million, five-year grant will provide support for the 45-member Health for Hearts United Collaborative, a coalition of churches in Gadsden and Leon Counties. 

Penny Ralston

The grant will help the team test an internal champions strategy in comparison to a professional experts strategy in training health leaders. Internal champions are church members who can effect change as transformational leaders. Professional experts are staff who work in collaboration with churches to implement programs.

Along with Ralston, the team includes co-principal investigators Kandauda Wickrama from the University of Georgia and Alice Ammerman from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

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