Interventions in faith-based settings are increasingly popular, due to their effectiveness for improving attendee health outcomes and behaviors. Little past research has examined the important role of the church environment in individual-level outcomes using objective environmental audits. This study examined associations between the objectively measured physical church environment and attendees’ perceptions of physical activity (PA) and healthy eating (HE) supports within the church environment, self-efficacy for PA and HE, and self-reported PA and HE behaviors. Data were collected via church audits and church attendee surveys in 54 churches in a rural, medically underserved county in South Carolina. Multi-level regression was used to analyze associations between the church environment and outcomes. Physical elements of churches were positively related to attendees’ perceptions of church environment supports for PA (B = 0.03, 95% CI = 0.01, 0.05) and HE (B = 0.05, 95% CI = 0.01, 0.09) and there was a significant interaction between perceptions of HE supports and HE church environment. Self-efficacy and behaviors for PA and HE did not show an association with the church environment. Future research should establish a temporal relationship between the church environment and these important constructs for improving health. Future faith-based interventions should apply infrastructure changes to the church environment to influence important mediating constructs to health behavior.
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Published in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, Volume 17, Issue 10, 2020.
© 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).