Session: Addressing Health Disparities among African Americans: Integrating Religion and Spirituality Into Social Work Practice (Research that Promotes Sustainability and (re)Builds Strengths (January 15 - 18, 2009))

5 Addressing Health Disparities among African Americans: Integrating Religion and Spirituality Into Social Work Practice


Kimberly S. Clay, PhD, Assistant Professor , Schnavia Smith Hatcher, PhD, Assistant Professor and Jeronda T. Burley, MS, MDiv, Doctoral Candidate
Friday, January 16, 2009: 8:00 AM-9:45 AM
Galerie 2 (New Orleans Marriott)
Religion and spirituality are deeply rooted in African American culture and tradition (Wheeler, Ampadu, & Wangari, 2002). Research suggests that religion is the greatest determinant of personal assessments of the quality of life and overall health for African Americans (Chatters, Taylor, & Levin, 2003). These findings are strengthened by other research that further supports the role of religion and spirituality as core to the African American life experience, especially among women and in Southern states.

This workshop is led by two African American social workers who have a strong background in the African American religious tradition, with ongoing research projects in this area. The workshop will examine strategies for helping social workers enhance their cultural competence through the integration of religious and spiritual beliefs in practice with African Americans. The presenters will open with a discussion of religion and spirituality in the African American community, will continue with illustrative case studies addressing the influence of religion and spirituality on the health of African Americans, and will close with implications for social work practice. This session is based on the synthesis of research in this area, as well as anecdotal accounts from African Americans of the role of religion and spirituality in their lives. This multidisciplinary presentation will build on previous research that examined the role of race, culture and spirituality in aging services, cancer screening, substance abuse treatment, and HIV prevention. By reviewing the needs and ongoing efforts of practitioners in this area, and by introducing workshop participants to proven successful intervention methods, social workers will be able to implement a range of religion and spirituality assessments and intervention approaches with African Americans.

During a ninety-minute session, the presenters will discuss the following topics: (1) the convergence of race, religion and spirituality; (2) empirical evidence of the importance of religion and spirituality in the African American community; (3) theories and conceptualizations of religion and spirituality within social work practice; (4) the evolving role of the Black church in the African American experience; (5) case illustrations of effective integration of religion and spirituality with HIV prevention, cancer screening education, faith-based substance abuse treatment, and healthy eating programs targeting African Americans women and older adults; and, (6) various models for culturally-competent social work intervention.

The presenters will also discuss their current research to enhance the breadth and depth of empirical data on this topic. They then will take audience questions and lead a discussion.