FAN: Faith, Activity and Nutrition Program

University of South Carolina, Prevention Research Center

A Pastor smiling from the pulpit during a church service

The Faith, Activity, and Nutrition (FAN) is a program to help churches create healthier environments for physical activity and healthy eating. The University of South Carolina Prevention Research CenterExternal (PRC) conducted a 2-year evaluation (2016–2017) of FAN. The evaluation assessed the program’s implementation (12 months) and maintenance (24 months) after it was introduced and factors influencing them.

Evaluation Study and Findings

Training in FAN was offered to all churches in Fairfield County, and 42% of churches in the county were trained. The University of South Carolina PRC conducted surveys with more than 1,300 church members in 54 churches (35 assigned at random to the intervention group and 19 to the control group) to evaluate FAN.

During a one-day training, church committees learned how to:

  • Increase opportunities for physical activity and healthy eating.
  • Set physical activity and healthy eating guidelines/policies.
  • Share physical activity and healthy eating messages.
  • Engage pastors in promoting physical activity and healthy eating.

Churches had flexibility in how they targeted these four areas, but it was requested that all churches do a core set of activities:

  1. Share messages during worship services about physical activity and healthy eating.
  2. Distribute educational materials about physical activity and healthy eating.
  3. Create a FAN bulletin board to display physical activity and healthy eating materials to congregants.
  4. Suggest physical activity and healthy eating guidelines/policies that the pastor could set.

The training included a simple healthy food demonstration and tasting and physical activity breaks. Each church received a workbook with an assessment and planning guide. Additionally, churches received 12 months of telephone-based technical assistance by community health advisors.

Church-goers who participated in the study saw more messages and pastor support for physical activity and healthy eating.

Bottom Line Impact

The researchers compared member responses from churches trained in FAN with member responses from untrained churches. Compared to non-participating churches, the members of churches that participated in FAN reported:

  • Higher levels of Pastor support for physical activity and healthy eating.
  • Greater physical activity opportunities.
  • Greater physical activity and healthy eating messages.

Additionally, fewer members of FAN churches reported that they were inactive—10% members of FAN churches versus 15% of members of the non-FAN churches.

Overall, the study had high program adoption and results showed that church-goers reported having more opportunities for physical activity. In addition, they saw more messages and pastor support for physical activity and healthy eating. Churches participating in the study also had fewer inactive church-goers, compared to churches that did not participate.

Learn more: The FAN program is listed in the National Cancer Institute’s Research-Tested Intervention Programs (RTIPs)External. FAN is also in the Rural Health Information Hub (RHI Hub),External a Federal Office of Rural Health Policy national clearinghouse on rural health is listed as a promising-level program.

References: Wilcox Sara, Saunders R, Kaczynski, A, et al. Faith, Activity, and Nutrition Randomized Dissemination and Implementation Study: Countywide Adoption, Reach, and Effectiveness.  American Journal of Preventive Medicine.External 2018;6:776–785.