Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and American Cancer Society's Body & Soul BLUE wellness challenge in Flint nearly triples number of participating churches

Healthy competition continues to gain popularity in the African-American community

September 9, 2011

FLINT — Members from several local places of worship are once again committing to honor their bodies by increasing their physical activity and eating healthier. The American Cancer Society and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan launched its third local Body & Soul BLUE challenge on Sunday, Aug. 28, at 23 churches in the Greater Flint area. The 10-week incentive-based health and wellness competition encourages members of African-American faith communities to participate in efforts to adopt healthier lifestyles.

The American Cancer Society’s Body & Soul program reinforces the importance of a healthy diet in decreasing the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases. The program works by combining pastoral leadership, educational activities and a church environment to help congregations make healthier nutrition choices and take the necessary steps to ensure a healthier future.

“We have 23 churches committed this year, an increase of about 187 percent from the program last fall,” said Shelley DuFort, senior community liaison in BCBSM’s Community Responsibility department. “Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan is committed to working with community organizations to address health disparities. The Body and Soul BLUE competition supports our goal of creating healthier Michigan communities by promoting lifelong wellness. We are thrilled to partner with the American Cancer Society and Flint congregations on this effort.”

The significant increase in participation is due to an addition of 15 new congregations to the competition—Bethlehem Temple, Cannan Baptist Church, Christ the King, Church Without Walls, Family Worship Center, Freedom Temple Ministries, Guiding Light, House of Prayer Church of God, Mt. Calvary, New Havens, New Jerusalem Full Baptist Church, Open Door Temple, Prince of Peace, Refuge Temple and Trinity United Presbyterian.

“We want to adopt healthy lifestyles, because we believe it helps us to better serve God,” said Evangelist Mary Benton of the Family Worship Center, which is participating in the program for the first time this year.

Eight congregations that participated in previous years’ competitions are continuing their commitment to better health this year—Christian Love Faith Center, Empowered Believers Worship Center, Greater Holy Temple, Holy Ghost Church Ministries, New Beginning Ministries, New Life Tabernacle, New St. James Memorial and Second Chance Missionary Baptist.

“We’re trying to improve the overall health of church and community through better nutrition, exercise and spiritual self worth,” said Superintendent Quintin Marshall, Sr. of the New Life Tabernacle, which is a returning participant in the program.

“African Americans are far more likely to develop and die from cancer than any other racial group and tend to have lower-than-recommended rates of physical activity,” said Shuntai Beaugard, coordinator of health initiatives for the American Cancer Society, Great Lakes Division, Inc. “The Body & Soul program focuses primarily on African-American congregations to help alleviate such harsh statistics. This program is a great way to incorporate healthy eating with friendly competition to improve health, and we’re excited to continue this partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.”

The Body & Soul BLUE Challenge will conclude with a celebratory program on Nov. 12, where churches with the highest level of participation will be rewarded a health ministry grant for meeting the requested criteria of the challenge over the 10-week time span.

About Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit organization, provides and administers health benefits to nearly 4.3 million members residing in Michigan, in addition to members of Michigan-headquartered groups who reside outside the state. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are nonprofit corporations and independent licensees of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, visit

About the American Cancer Society

The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing about $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit

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