Date of Award

Spring 5-11-2018

Degree Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Richard Rothenberg

Second Advisor

Dr. Rodney Lyn


Examining the Community Outreach Efforts of Local African American Religious Organizations in Relation to Drug Use and HIV Transmission

By Alyshia Jackson



Faith-based organizations, such as churches, are pillars of the community that provide inspiration in times of need. Often serving as a gathering place for those seeking hope and refuge, the church is heavily relied on by the community. African Americans are considerably more religious compared to other races in the U.S. population as a whole in terms of level of affiliation, attendance to religious services, frequency of prayer, and religion’s importance in life (Liu, 2009). Aside from spiritual functions, churches provide social, political, and educational activities (McNeal et al., 2007). Expanding the scope of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) services further than conventional medical locations to reach where African Americans live, work, and socialize has become a main focus of community-based HIV interventions (Berkley-Patton et al., 2012). Using the long standing platform of the church can impact the HIV epidemic greatly.


The purpose of this study is to determine if and how churches are offering community outreach to persons at risk for HIV, STIs, drug use, and/or Hepatitis C. This capstone will examine the perceptions of church leadership on the impact of their community outreach efforts on the congregation and members of the community.


A sample of 51 organizations were randomly chosen for comprehensive evaluation (Rothenberg, 2004). This cross-sectional study sought to establish a clear understanding of the current outreach activities of each church. The questionnaire used in this study supplied researchers with comparable information and used open-ended questions to get participants to expound on their views and the work of the church.


There were 51 interviews conducted using the Religious Organization Survey from the IMPACT Project study. Most of the FBOs were churches (84%), with the majority of survey participants being African American (78%). Respondents were mostly directors or church administration (52%), followed by senior pastors or leadership (37%). Mostly all of the ministries (92%) had conducted outreach activities for people at risk for drug use, STIs, HIV, and Hepatitis C. Majority of the activities and services offered included prevention counseling (49%). Surprisingly, only 21.5% of the FBOs included prevention services (such as condoms, needles, bleach, and HIV/STI testing).


The African American community continues to lead in the rates of drug use and HIV diagnosis. This study provides rationale for the church’s steadily increasing efforts from the religious organizations perspective. The results emphasize three main concerns hindering the engagement of FBOs: responsibility, involvement, and perception. With the expansion of knowledge, the perceptions of the community and FBOs will positively influence outcome exposure.