Faithful Families Thriving Communities (Faithful Families) was founded in 2007 as a partnership between the North Carolina Division of Public Health and NC State Extension. We believe that faith communities are ideal partners to champion health and reduce health disparities in their communities. Over 40 state and local stakeholders and leaders from religious communities and health organizations gathered together to advise planning and implementation of Faithful Families throughout its pilot phase.
Connecting a community's faith with health, supporting communities that experience the greatest disparities, and ensuring that the program is adaptable to any religious tradition are integral parts of the program. The program’s approach is based on the socio-ecological model of health promotion and includes direct peer education, policy and environmental supports, and community engagement. Health educators and trained lay leaders from the faith community work together to implement the program in faith-based settings. Lay Leaders are essential to the program because they bring the spiritual elements into each lesson and engage the faith leaders and community members to identify and implement both organizational and community-level changes that support health.
The program was initially called Faithful Families Eating Smart and Moving More to reflect its primary focus on promotion of healthy eating and physical activity. However, over the past few years, the program has grown to address the diverse needs and assets that faith communities possess and to expand local and national partnerships across public health, practitioners, and researchers. In 2016, we held our first bi-annual summit for public health professionals, universities, community organizations, and lay persons supporting faith communities across the country. In 2018, we changed our name to Faithful Families Thriving Communities to better reflect the mission and vision of the organization. In 2020, we held our first virtual summit and walking challenge. Faithful Families is offered in 20 states across the U.S., and throughout North Carolina.