This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Influence of Social Support on Adoption of Healthy Behaviors in a Faith-based Setting




Brock, Ruth

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology

Restriction Status


Restriction Type


Date Available



Overweight and obesity are national epidemics affecting 42.4% of adults in the U.S.; with the southeastern region exhibiting higher obesity rates than most other regions in the U.S. (National Center for Health Statistics, 2020; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2009). Alabama ranks 3rd nationally with 39% of adults being obese (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2021). Minority populations tend to have higher rates of obesity when compared to non-minority populations. Almost half (48.1%) of Non-Hispanic Blacks are obese, compared to 34.5% of non-Hispanic Whites (Ogden et al., 2018). Faith-based organizations are increasingly common settings in which to conduct health promotion programs because of their existing integration and influence within high-risk communities. By using the Social Ecological Model (SEM), the opportunity to create a multi-level intervention was available with the development of the Live Well Faith Communities (LWFC) program. Participants received education during nine, weekly small-group lessons focusing on behaviors around eating healthy and physical activity. Participants also received support on the interpersonal level from a designated lay leader who was present for all lessons and advocated for healthy living throughout the faith community. The study was conducted in 14 individual faith communities in 8 rural counties. The average individual participant was a middle-aged, non-Hispanic Black woman. This study’s primary purpose was to examine LWFC participant’s perception of social support from within their faith community and the effect, if any, it had on fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity participation. It was determined that participant demographic characteristics did not influence completion of the LWFC program. Findings indicated that participants who completed LWFC were successful in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption, but not physical activity participation. Overall, the study found that social support and demographics were not factors in increasing fruit and vegetable consumption or physical activity participation. Educators and policy makers must realize that a person’s health outcomes are not based on only the individual’s choices but exist within an environment that can directly impact one’s health. Through direct education, support, and policy changes at both the local and national levels, health outcomes can improve.