Six black churches in Columbia received new automated external defibrillators from the Live Well by Faith Public Health Commission Thursday night.

The commission was created in response to the results of the Public Health and Human Services Community Health Report that found black people in Boone County had significantly lower health outcomes than white people. The report showed that African Americans in Boone County had health disparities for stroke, hypertension, diabetes and cancer.

An AED is essential in a life-threatening cardiac event. If the heart’s rhythm is not correct, the device analyzes the heart’s rhythm and will deliver a shock to make the heart reconnect to its natural rhythm. AED’s boost the survival rate for sudden cardiac arrest from less than 5% to more than 40%, according to the National Safety Council. Most schools, public buildings, gyms and other public places have a device close by. However, they are not required or recommended by Missouri law.

According to Verna Laboy, health educator with the Health Department, none of the black churches in Boone County had an AED in the building. Laboy said this may be due to the high price tag associated with acquiring one. A single AED costs $1,500.

However, Laboy and Live Well by Faith are changing the black community’s access to AEDs in churches.

The commission has spent three years, since its inception, promoting healthy lifestyles that would improve overall health in the county. Additionally, Live Well by Faith has worked to create connections between the Health Department and black churches.

These connections have been used to address the health needs that are specific to each church receiving an AED, Laboy said.

The churches that received the AEDs are St. Luke United Methodist Church, Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Fifth St. Christian Church, Second Baptist and Russell Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal. The Salvation Army received an AED, as well.

The group has also placed “lifestyle coaches” in each church. The coaches are trained and educated in health education, evidence-based programs to promote healthy lifestyles and are given resources to run programs that are the most effective for each church.

The coaches have spent the past several months training at the Health Department in Columbia to receive their certification in CPR and AED usage. The coaches and members of Live Well by Faith took the new devices out of the box and set them up Thursday night, before taking them to the individual churches.

Laboy said the work is “groundbreaking” and expressed enthusiasm for the program that has shown to have high levels of success in promoting healthy lifestyles throughout the community.

  • Staff Photographer Summer 2019, Education Reporter Fall 2019, Photojournalism major, Reach me at or in the newsroom at (573) 882-1690

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