The Balm In Gilead’s Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative (SDFI) Transitions to Distant Learning

The Balm In Gilead’s Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative (SDFI) Transitions to Distant Learning

In the United States, more than 88 million adults suffer from prediabetes. Roughly 84% of these individuals are unaware that they have this disease.

The Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative (SDFI) is a multi-state faith-based initiative created by The Balm In Gilead to expand access and utilize the National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP). The goal of SDFI is to address the increasing burden of prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes in the African American community.

A New Way of Learning

Before COVID-19, the Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative held 37 weekly face-to-face classes in five states. 85% of these classes were held at local churches. However, as a result of the stay at home orders, the research-based program focusing on healthy eating and physical activity needed to shift to a virtual delivery system so that learning could continue.

Research shows that online learning can help increase the retention of information. Nearly 450 participants embraced and adjusted to the “new normal” despite the varying comfort levels in using digital technology. “The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a shift in how we learn and communicate,” said Tanya Henderson, SDFI Program Manager. “We had a sudden shift away from classroom instruction, and overall it has been well received.”

Transitioning to a distance-learning format has allowed The Balm In Gilead to continue providing a valuable service to communities that are more vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes. “COVID-19 has disproportionately affected the African American community,” Pamela Price, Deputy Director of The Balm In Gilead. “Scientific lifestyle changing programs like the Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative culturally tailor activities and messaging to help reduce the long-term burden of diabetes on communities of color.”

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognized four out of five Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative state organizations for full or preliminary recognition. This means that programs offered through SDFI demonstrate the effectiveness and achievements on the scale of national performance criteria and standards. The national recognition allows SDFI to serve more Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries through the covered health benefit of Diabetes Prevention Programs (DPP). “We’ve worked very hard to achieve this recognition. Preventing Type 2 diabetes is paramount for saving lives,” exclaimed Henderson.

The accomplishments achieved by the Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative in Virginia, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Alabama have led to the expansion of the program into Mississippi.

“The Balm In Gilead hopes that as more learn about the Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative, they will want to participate and help improve the overall quality of life for African Americans and other minorities through prayer, education, advocacy, and healing,” said Price.

As distance learning becomes the new norm, classes will continue. “We are excited to announce that we are offering new distance learning programs starting this Fall and continuing with hybrid learning in Spring 2021, ” said Price.

For more information on the Southeast Diabetes Faith Initiative, visit 

10 Essential Guidelines for Reopening Communities of Faith

10 Essential Guidelines for Reopening Communities of Faith

Continuing to Worship During COVID-19 Pandemic 

For approximately 14 weeks, our country has been researching, observing, studying, and determining the best ways to reopen and keep citizens safe as COVID-19 remains a threat to us all. As many churches are considering opening their doors, there have been some houses of worship that have already begun welcoming congregants back into edifices for worship services. Their decisions have been aligned with the recommendations of governors across the United States who are implementing different reopening phases per state. Some states are in Phase 3 of reopening, which will allow for more social gatherings.

There are several essential guidelines that pastors and religious leaders need to consider to determine if their churches are ready to reopen and manage the crowds that may enter their places of worship. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have outlined ways faith communities can develop, implement, and maintain (with constant likely revisions) a plan for reopening their places of worship. There are cleansers and processes that they recommend to ensure proper routine cleaning and disinfecting, maintaining safe practices, and reducing potential exposure to the coronavirus. Social distancing continues to be necessary while keeping six-feet of distance from persons not in your immediate household.

The spiritual well-being of those who seek guidance is the primary focus of faith leaders, and the safety and physical well-being of those people are also an element of spiritual care. When deciding on when and how to reopen churches is recommended by demonstrating the act of loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Churches should be mindful of the status of COVID-19 related illnesses in your community, remain informed of the local government’s recommended guidelines and implementation of those guidelines, surveying your congregants and their concerns, and making decisions relying on wisdom and guidance.

Here are 10 essential guidelines to consider for church reopening.

  1. Stay Informed. Stay updated about COVID-19 from local and state authorities, and don’t forget to adhere to safety guidelines recommended for your specific area.
  2. Enforce the Use of Masks. Ensure that all church leaders and members of the congregation are wearing masks in the presence of others. Try to enforce this rule to all except those with breathing problems and small children.
  3. Limit Capacity. Consider having a limited capacity of congregation members to ensure that there is enough space to provide safe distancing during church services. One way to limit church capacity is to provide virtual service as an alternative to in-person services.
  4. Promote Social Distancing. Make sure that there is enough space within the congregation to properly distance members from one another. Consider providing physical guidelines, so that it is easier for members to know where they should sit and stand.
  5. Be Aware. Church member leaders that are sick or have come in contact with anyone with COVID-19 should stay at home and quarantine for two weeks.
  6. Encourage Proper Hand Hygiene. All members and staff should maintain proper hand hygiene by washing hands and using sanitizers when possible. Be sure to provide sanitizing stations and antibacterial soap as a preventative measure.
  7. Sanitize and Disinfect. Before church services, sanitize the whole area, especially areas that are frequented most by church members. After services, make sure to disinfect all bibles and materials used during service to discontinue the spread of germs.
  8. Educate the Masses. Provide educational posters, bulletins, and flyers, so that the congregation can stay informed about what the church is doing to prevent COVID-19 and how they can help with preventative measures.
  9. Handling COVID-19 Cases. If a person is diagnosed with COVID-19 and has been within your church’s presence, consider closing immediately and sanitizing the area and building where the individual was present before you resume activities or service.
  10. Train all Clergy and Staff. Consider conducting training virtually, or if in-person on the above safety measures and guidelines.
What are CAD and PAD?

What are CAD and PAD?

Click the image to download the FACTSHEET

Coronary artery disease, or CAD, is the most common form of heart disease and the leading cause of death for both men and women. It’s a progressive condition that is the result of plaque buildup, or atherosclerosis, in the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart. It is also common for people with CAD to have peripheral artery disease, or PAD, a condition in which plaque buildup occurs in the arteries that supply blood to your limbs, usually your legs.

COVID-19 & The Music & Arts Ministry

COVID-19 & The Music & Arts Ministry

Click the image to download the FACTSHEET

The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has impacted our world in a precedented way. Social distancing has changed the historic culture of how churches gather and minister to congregants and the community. The music and arts ministry is a significant element to worship services, comprised of multiple to mass people closely gathered in praise teams, choirs and instrumental talents banded together to create a joyful noise. In light of the new normal we all are facing, how does the music ministry effectively minister in a space that has thrived on the essence of being present together in one physical place?

The Balm In Gilead, Inc. has devised an advisory information fact sheet to offer support on how the music and arts ministry may adjust to the new normal, keep everyone safe and continue serving congregants, communities and the world with the gift of music and art. Please consider the listed suggestions and incorporate them into your plans as you move forward with your ministries.




Healthy churches 2030 conference will now take place online November 16-19, 2020 

RICHMOND, Va. (July 1, 2020) The Balm In Gilead, Inc. officially announced today that they will deliver their Annual Healthy Churches 2030 Conference as an all-virtual event Nov. 16 – Nov. 19, 2020. The conference was originally scheduled to take place in Charlotte, NC. However, as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the decision was made to shift the conference to an all-digital format. The new conference format will allow attendees to experience the programming they have become accustomed to for the past six years online in a digitally immersive environment. 

Attracting participants from across the faith, medical, and corporate landscape each year, the Healthy Churches 2030 Conference is leading the charge in bringing faith and public health leaders together to address health disparities affecting African Americans. Attendees at this year’s Healthy Churches 2030 Conference will have the opportunity to virtually interact with the nation’s top public health and faith leaders and to obtain information and resources that they can use in their ministerial and community programs. 

“With a mission that focuses on health promotion, disease prevention, and disease management, our Board of Directors and leadership team concluded it would be impossible to conduct Healthy Churches 2030 Conference safely in person,” said Dr. Pernessa C. Seele, founder and CEO of The Balm In Gilead, Inc. “Additionally, we couldn’t overlook the impact the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had on the African American community, which furthered our aim to make this year’s conference more accessible to those in urban, rural, and remote communities that we serve.”

In conjunction with the Healthy Churches 2030 Initiative, the conference seeks to build individuals and congregations’ capacity to incorporate key strategies and activities as outlined by the U.S. Health & Human Services, Healthy People 2030 Initiative into its network of congregational health ministries and programs. “To build and strengthen the capacity of faith communities in the United States, we need all churches to have a thriving health ministry to address the disparities that plague our community,” stated Seele.

When reshaping the conference, Seele also considered the coronavirus’s economic effects into consideration when pricing registration. “Our goal is to have a minimum of 1,200 people attend this year’s conference,” said Seele. This year, the conference offers group registration at $25 per person for groups of twenty or more and $75 for individuals. Registration for the 2020 initiation of Healthy Churches 2030 Conference opens Aug. 1, 2020.

For registration and conference information, please visit


About The Balm In Gilead, Inc: The Balm In Gilead, Inc. builds and strengthens the capacity of African American faith communities throughout the United States to deliver programs and services that contribute to the elimination of health disparities. The organization develops educational and training programs specifically designed to establish sustainable, integrated systems of public health and faith principles, which helps to improve health outcomes of individuals living in urban, rural and remote communities. For more information:

Statement by National Black Faith and Civil Rights Leaders

Statement by National Black Faith and Civil Rights Leaders

Statement by National Black Faith and Civil Rights Leaders Encouraging Communities to Continue to “Stay at Home” in States Lifting Orders

Rev. Al Sharpton (NAN), Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson (CNBC), Sherrilyn Ifill (NAACP LDF), Marc Morial (NUL), Derrick Johnson (NAACP), Melanie Campbell (BWR), Kristen Clarke (Lawyers’ Committee) & the Heads of the Nation’s Nine Largest Historically Black Religious Denominations Encourage Communities to Stay at Home

(April 24, 2020) – A group of national Black faith and civil rights leaders along with the heads of the largest historically Black religious denominations, are encouraging communities to stay at home in states where stay at home orders are being lifted until there is evidence that it is safe.

Read the full statement here.