DALLAS, Oct. 18, 2019 – According to a recent study, black women have three times the risk of sudden cardiac death compared to white women. That’s why the American Heart Association, with the help of its sponsor, WW International, Inc. (Weight Watchers Reimagined) is establishing the EmPOWERED & Well Healthier Church Challenge, designed to support and expand the ongoing health and wellness activities of black women and their faith-based communities.

From Oct. 18 through Nov. 18, 2019, the American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all and WW, a global wellness company, are calling on faith-based organizations with health and wellness ministries to apply for the EmPOWERED & Well Healthier Church Challenge. Kicking off Jan. 5 in Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., the 12-week pilot program will empower participants with weekly coaching and science-based health education.

According to a 2019 Duke University study, while one-third of all Americans live with obesity, that figure jumps to one-half among African Americans, putting them at greater risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Black churches have long-served as positive sources for health information. In fact, according to a study published by the American Journal of Public Health, black churches provided more health resources to their members than white churches.

“This challenge is about much more than weight loss, it’s about well-being,” said Jennifer Ellis, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue in New York and adviser to the American Heart Association's EmPOWERED to ServeTM platform. “We are offering accessible, relevant and timely content that incorporates preventative health, blood pressure management, healthy weight loss and diabetes prevention that fits realistically within their lives.”

Participating faith organizations will provide weekly health and wellness sessions. They will receive stipends in support of their health ministries and will have the opportunity to receive additional financial support and wellness celebrations.

Only 20 percent of a person’s health is shaped by access and quality of health care. However, the neighborhoods where people live – particularly their ZIP codes – could cost them upward of two decades of life. Factors, such as education, family income and access to healthy foods impact life expectancy for vulnerable populations across the United States.  

The EmPOWERED & Well Healthier Church Challenge is a program of the American Heart Association’s EmPOWERED to ServeTM platform, which is inspired by volunteers who are passionate about driving change through health justice and empowerment in their communities. These committed ambassadors are impacting gaps in health equity through advocacy, policy, education and social change.

For more information on how to qualify as a program participant, visit empoweredtoserve.org/churchchallenge.


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.orgFacebookTwitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1. 


Additional Resources:

For Media Inquiries:

Susan Young: 214-706-1508 Susan.Young@Heart.org

Luz Varela: 214-706-4852; Luz.Varela@Heart.org

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)