Faith, Health, and Healing in African American Life
by Stephanie Y. Mitchem and Emilie M. Townes, Editors
August 2008, 232pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-99375-7
$65, £50, 57€, A90
eBook Available: 978-1-57356-762-6
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Offers an overview of the varieties of ways African Americans address healing and health, particularly through religion, faith, and spirituality.

Black Americans are more likely than Whites to die of cancer and heart disease, more likely to get diabetes and asthma, and less likely to get preventive care and screening. Some of this greater morbidity results from education, income level, and environment as well as access to health care. But the traditional medical model does not always allow for a more holistic approach that takes into account the body, the mind, the spirit, the family, and the community. This book offers a better understanding of the varieties of religiously-based approaches to healing and alternative models of healing and health found in Black communities in the United States. Contributors address the communal aspects of faith and health and explore the contexts in which individuals make choices about their health, the roles that institutions play in shaping these decisions, and the practices individuals engage in seeking better health or coping with the health they have. By paying attention to the role of faith, spirit, and health, this book offers a fuller sense of the varieties of ways Black health and health care are perceived and addressed from an inter-religious perspective.

Community and religion-based initiatives have emerged as one key way to address the health challenges found in the African American community. In cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, and Oakland, residents organize exercise groups, teach one another how to cook with healthy ingredients, and encourage neighbors to get regular checkups. Churches have become key sites for health education, screening, and testing. Another set of responses to the challenge of Black health and healthcare in the United States comes from those who emphasize the body as a whole—body, mind, soul, and spirit, often drawing on religious traditions such as Islam and African-based religions such as Spiritism, Santeria, Vodun (aka Voodoo), Candomblé, and others. Understanding the issues and the various approaches is essential to combating the problems, and this unique volume sheds light on areas often overlooked when considering the issues.


"This is a most interesting work. It provides insight into the traditional African-American health practices that are not dealt with in most conventional medical literature. The essays, furthermore, place these practices into a broader historical context, one in existence before the institution of slavery in the Americas."—MultiCultural Review, January 1, 2009

"Because residency programs are now recognizing the importance of cultural competency for their trainees, it is crucial that clinicians acknowledge the importance of religion in the health care of their patients. In fact, as more becomes known in this country about how different cultures approach health and wellness, this book, along with the others in the series, will be timely and useful to all involved in health care. FAITH, HEALTH, AND HEALING IN AFRICAN AMERICAN LIFE is an excellent guide to the health belief system of a key US community."—Journal of the American Medical Association/JAMA, March 4, 2009

"Mitchem and Townes have edited a very important collection of multidisciplinary essays focused on faith, health, and healing in African American life. Since African Americans have been vulnerable to higher AIDS, this timely volume fills an important knowledge gap. Religious resources have often been neglected in biomedicine. The essays range from the historical contributions of African religious traditions to healing in Yvonne Chireau's 'Hoodoo' narratives and Charles Long's reflections on the conjure tradition to more contemporary foci such as Dwight Hopkins's elaboration of the relationship between environmental and ecological justice to health concerns in black communities… Recommended. Upper-level undergraduates through faculty/researchers."—Choice, April 1, 2009

"Faith, Health, and Healing in African American Life magnificently weaves together the experiences and analysis of diverse scholars, from an interreligious perspective to excavate the communal aspects of faith, health (activities that foster healing and wholeness), and healing. This book is a must read for those curious about or committed to the incredible richness and intrigue of studying systems and individuals and how they emerge and have an impact on Black health and health care through multiple faith traditions."—Cheryl A. Kirk-Duggan, Ph.D., Professor of Theology and Women's Studies, Shaw University Divinity School, Raleigh, NC

"Faith, Health, and Healing in African American Life offers interdisciplinary and thick interrogation of faith and health in ways that promotes an important re-thinking of past assumptions and approaches. Readers will close the book with a rich and complex understanding of the construction and practice of health. This book is a vital addition to existing scholarship. It will change the way you think about this significant issue. I highly recommend it."—Anthony B. Pinn, Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities, Rice University
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