Draper CE, Tomaz SA, Zihindula G, Bunn C, Gray CM, Hunt K, Micklesfield LK & Wyke S (2019) Development, feasibility, acceptability and potential effectiveness of a healthy lifestyle programme delivered in churches in urban and rural South Africa. PLoS ONE, 14 (4), Art. No.: e0219787. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0219787
Rising levels of obesity in South Africa require innovation in community-level lifestyle change programmes. Our aim was to co-develop Impilo neZenkolo (‘Health through Faith’), a healthy lifestyle programme for low-income, black South Africans delivered through churches, and evaluate its feasibility, acceptability and potential effectiveness. In the first phase we developed programme materials with church members. In the second phase we trained lay leaders to deliver the programme and assessed feasibility, acceptability (observation, focus groups and interviews) and potential effectiveness (pre and post measurement of weight, hip and waist circumferences, blood pressure, self-reported physical activity, dietary habits, health status, self-esteem, psychological distress). The study was conducted in four churches in urban and rural South Africa. The development workshops led to increased focus on positive benefits of participation, widening inclusion criteria to all adults and greater emphasis on Christian ethos. Challenges to feasibility included: recruitment of churches; scheduling of programme sessions (leading to one church not delivering the programme); attendance at the programme (63% attended more than half of the 12 weekly sessions); and poor programme fidelity (in particular in teaching behaviour change techniques). Aspects of the programme were acceptable, particularly the way in which the programme was aligned with a Christian ethos. There was some indication that amongst the 42/68 (62%) for whom we were obtained pre- and post-programme measurements the programme has potential to support weight loss. We conclude that a healthy lifestyle programme for low-income, black South Africans, delivered through churches, may be viable with extensive re-development of delivery strategies. These include finding external funding for the programme, endorsement from national level denominational organisations and the professionalization of programme leadership, including paid rather than volunteer leaders to ensure sufficient time can be spent in training.
PLoS ONE: Volume 14, Issue 4