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Health interventions for clergy must counteract need to put others first
Date:6/28/2012

DURHAM, N.C. -- Clergy's practice of putting others first can be detrimental to their own health, say researchers at Duke University.

Pastors have been found to have higher-than-average rates of chronic disease and depression. But it may be difficult to get pastors to seek care because they typically default to caring for others first.

Duke researchers have been trying to design health programs that will be more effective for clergy, given these tendencies.

"Clergy recognize the importance of caring for themselves, but doing so takes a back seat to fulfilling their vocational responsibilities, which are tantamount to caring for an entire community," said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, research director of the Clergy Health Initiative at Duke Divinity School and assistant research professor at the Duke Global Health Institute.

"Many pastors equate self-care with selfishness," Proeschold-Bell said. "They feel they need permission to take the time to attend to their health. A health intervention aimed at clergy must address this tendency head-on."

Her group's latest study, published June 13 in the Journal of Prevention & Intervention in the Community, underscores the need to place preventive care programs for clergy in the context of their beliefs, congregational expectations and church polity. The findings are drawn from in-depth focus group data from 88 United Methodist clergy in North Carolina. Duke maintains a historic affiliation with the United Methodist Church.

To succeed, health intervention programs must overcome a variety of potential barriers named by clergy: cost, distance, pastors' unpredictable work schedules and fear that mental health issues will be discovered and stigmatized by congregants and supervisors.

The focus group clergy also emphasized that any health intervention must demonstrate the connection between physical, mental and spiritual health.

Research by the Duk
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Contact: Kate Rugani
krugani@div.duke.edu
919-613-5345
Duke University
Source:Eurekalert

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