Stacy Downs // Fall 2014
Assistant professor Janette Berkley-Patton grew up in the church, attending Second Baptist at 39th and Monroe in Kansas City. In addition to the lively sermons, music and fellowship, she observed how quiet volunteers behind the scenes were the ones who helped the pastor lead the church forward.
“The church always feels like home,” says Berkley-Patton, who leads the UMKC Community Health Research Group in the Department of Psychology in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Berkley-Patton has taken her inside knowledge of the church and turned it into an effective research tool.
Three out of four African Americans in the U.S. attend worship services. Meanwhile, a disproportionate number of health conditions affect the black population. One example: African Americans make up 13 percent of the U.S. population but they represent almost half of all new HIV cases.
“The church is a trusted institution in the African American community and can serve as a powerful setting in improving the health of its congregants along with community members served through church outreach ministries,” Berkley-Patton says.
About 30 churches in the Kansas City region and 12 in Montgomery, Ala., use the UMKC Community Health Research Group’s Taking It to the Pews — or TIPS — program that infuses HIV education and testing strategies into church services through sermon guides, responsive readings, church bulletins, posters, printed and video testimonials, Bible bookmarks and games that can be played in Sunday school. TIPS is going global: Berkley-Patton consulted with Jamaican congregations during the summer.
Through the UMKC Community Health Research Group, Berkley-Patton teams with church members, pastors, health-care providers, colleagues and her students.
“Her research is innovative,” says Marcie Berman, a Ph.D. student in Berkley-Patton’s lab. “It doesn’t live in the high tower of academia. She relates the findings back to the community. She strives to make real changes.”