Science Advance: Bringing Consciously Resting Meditation to the Community to Reduce Metabolic Syndrome

African-Americans suffer more from high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, and high fats than other populations in the U.S. Any two of these diseases along with high blood pressure or diabetes is called the Metabolic Syndrome (MetS). MetS is also higher in African-Americans than in other U.S .population. In a partnership supported by the Atlanta Clinical & Translational Science Institute’s Clinical Research Network – Morehouse School of Medicine (MSM) partnered with Emory University to see if Consciously Resting Meditation (CRM) could help reduce these conditions compared to a health education control group. CRM, developed by Kofi Kondwani, PhD, assistant professor, Department of Community Health and Preventive Medicine, MSM, was shown to reduce stress, particularly in African- American populations.

CRM is practiced for twenty minutes, twice daily sitting quietly with eyes closed. During CRM, a soothing sound is used to calm the mind and relax the body. CRM reduces stress and fatigue in the body. At the end of the one year study period, the CRM group showed more improvement than the group that received only health education. Not only was blood pressure lowered in the meditation group, but weight, triglycerides, and blood sugar were also reduced.

This study, called MetaHealth, was published as Effect of Meditation on Endothelial Function in Black Americans with Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Trial  in the Journal of Psychosomatic Medicine in 2013 by Viola Vaccarino, MD, PhD, professor and chair, Department of Epidemiology, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University; Arshed Quyyumi, MD, FRCP, FACC, professor, Division of Cardiology, Emory University School of Medicine; Dr. Kondwani, et al. In addition, a partnership of churches in DeKalb County selected CRM as an intervention they could use immediately. Through their efforts, several local churches were introduced to CRM. The group was organized to expose church audiences to the value of research that has the potential to prevent or reduce the risk of disease in high-risk African-American communities.

ACTSI Helps Bring CRM to the Community

The ACTSI’s Community Engagement Research Program (CERP) grant was instrumental in helping the Right Of Way (ROW) Collaborative introduce CRM to the Atlanta community, in partnership with the Green-Forest Community Development Corporation. The partnership was devoted to educating, empowering, and helping reduce stress in African-American communities and promoting health and wellness for residents of South DeKalb County and other communities. The grant was used to introduce CRM to groups of clergy, at-risk families, churches, and other groups to reduce stress.

Ninety percent of participants who completed the sessions noted feeling different in ways like sleeping sounder, improved clarity of thought, and slowing down of heart rate. Participants also reported waking up more relaxed, feeling less tired during the day, and being more effective at work. “Too much stress in our lives is directly related to the mental and physical diseases we have during our lifetime. Excess stress in urban African-American communities may contribute to the health disparities found in many disease categories where African-Americans lead the nation in incidence, severity, and deaths,” said Doris Patillo, PhD, LPC, CACII, Psychologist and ROW collaborative partner.

The ROW partnership with the help of funding from the CERP mini-grant also met its goal by helping to dispel the myth of research as a negative experience towards African-Americans. The CERP Mini-Grant Program invites proposals for partnership-based health projects that involve collaborations between a community-based organization (CBO) and a faculty member affiliated with MSM, Emory, or Georgia Institute of Technology. The grant award (up to $5,000), is paid directly to the CBO for dissemination of important evidenced-based research information into targeted communities and/or populations