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  • The community will know that your congregation is supportive of providing wellness opportunities

  • Serve as a testimony for the implementation of proven strategies to improve the health of congregants

  • Include certification level in mission and outreach work with communities

  • Certified Healthy Congregations build awareness of and understanding around how policies impact health. 

  • Congregations will be able to identify other certified healthy congregations and increase community collaborations over shared health.

  • Recipients are invited to professional development opportunities to grow in their wellness efforts. 

    Certified Healthy Congregations 2021 Map

Congregations of all faiths and sizes are encouraged to apply to become a Certified Healthy Congregation.  There are three levels of certification congregations are eligible for; basic, merit, and excellence.

Congregations that have a school or early childhood program also have the opportunity to apply to become a Certified Healthy School and/or a Certified Healthy Early Childhood program.


Congregations must be at least SMOKEFREE in order to apply. In order to be considered for Excellence, congregations must be TOBACCO-FREE and submit a copy of their tobacco-free policy, picture of posted tobacco signage, or meeting minutes. These restrictions against smoking and tobacco include marijuana and cannabis derived products.

Note: The OSDH acknowledges the traditional and sacred use of tobacco among American Indian people living in Oklahoma. Whenever the word tobacco is referenced it refers to the use of commercial tobacco.

Applicants select activities and policies that are currently offered by their congregation in each of eight criteria categories: (1) Health Services and Screenings; (2) Health Education; (3) Physical Activity; (4) Tobacco Prevention; (5) Nutrition; (6) Safe and Healthy Environments; (7) Leadership in the Community; (8) Behavioral Health.  Within the eight categories there are 49 total criteria, and a total of three criteria with a possible N/A response, depending upon the congregation.

Congregations are scored according to the number of criterion checked, and each is worth one point. Certification status is assigned according to the percentage of criteria selected by the applicant overall. As a reminder, a smokefree policy is required for Basic and Merit certification levels. In order to achieve the excellence level, congregations must have at least one criterion selected for each category and be tobacco-free. A tobacco-free policy submission with the application is also required for Excellence.

Congregation Scoring Matrix

  • % of Criteria Selected
    • Basic: 30% (15 pts)
    • Merit: 45% (22 pts)
    • Excellence: 65% (32 pts)
  • Smokefree policy
    • Basic: Yes
    • Merit: Yes
    • Excellence: Yes
  • Tobacco-free policy uploaded to system
    • Basic: No
    • Merit: No
    • Excellence: Yes
  • At least one criterion from each category selected
    • Basic: No
    • Merit: No
    • Excellence: Yes

The Oklahoma State Department of Health Certified Healthy Oklahoma Team provides assistance and consultation regarding wellness to any Oklahoma business, health department, state or community agency, organization, association, or coalition. We can provide the following services:

  • Sample policies related to physical activity, nutrition, and tobacco

  • Resources on how to begin or enhance a wellness program

  • Content expertise and information regarding best practices 

  • Information and technical assistance – trends, data, and best practices

  • National and state data related to physical activity, nutrition, tobacco, and health outcomes

  • Information or technical assistance regarding the Certified Healthy process

  • Linkages to other health partners 

Helpful Documents


What is the Certified Healthy Congregation Program?

The Certified Healthy Congregation Program was created in 2014 to accompany six additional Certified Healthy Oklahoma programs: Business, Campus, Community, Early Childhood, Restaurant, and School. The program is administered by the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Certified Healthy Oklahoma Team.

This certification recognizes all faith traditions in Oklahoma that are working to improve the health of their congregations and surrounding communities. This can be accomplished by providing wellness opportunities and adhering to policies, covenants, and/or rules that lead to healthier lifestyles.

Why Does Certified Healthy Matter? 

Becoming a Certified Healthy Congregation signifies that you are providing a healthy environment for congregants, as well as the local community. Applying for certification also allows congregations an opportunity to assess the level of health promotion activities available and determine if additional activities would be beneficial to members. By meeting most or all of the criteria to become certified healthy, congregations can be confident that they are incorporating strategies that have been proven to motivate people to make change and take on healthy habits.

Congregations’ Impact on Health Behaviors

Congregations are major influencers that cultivate the lives of its members and surrounding communities. Community health education and promotion within the church setting is becoming more popular, and may be particularly useful among those with a strong faith in their church (e.g., African Americans)1.

The power of congregations is evident by their strength in numbers. Oklahoma has a population of about 3.9 million people2 and according to a 2010 report by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies (ASARB) approximately 2 million regularly attend religious services3. If we are to improve health, limit suffering from chronic diseases (such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease), and decrease the rates of early deaths in Oklahoma it is imperative to work with our 6,000 plus congregations. Partnerships to address health behaviors such as tobacco use, lack of physical activity, low consumption of fruits and vegetables, and alcohol abuse, which are the leading cause of chronic diseases4, are essential.

In Oklahoma, seven out of every ten adults5 and over one-third of adolescents6 are considered overweight and obese, and 1 in 5 adults are current smokers5. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, medical costs for both obesity and tobacco use are in the billions7. Specifically, obesity costs the U.S. healthcare system $147 billion per year8 while smoking costs the U.S. $170 billion per year9.

Figure 1: congregational influence on Health Behaviours10, 11, 12
Community/Society Level Congregations advocating for health improvements within neighborhoods and surrounding communities.
Organizational (Congregation) Level Covenant, rules, and/or policies within congregational settings. Promoting tobacco free, nutrition, and physical activity policies.
Major Influencer Health messages by religious leaders within the context of one's own faith.
Interpersonal Level Participation in health promotion programs that provides support and motivation for improved health.
Intrapersonal Level Individual health beliefs in relation to religious beliefs.

(Adapted from the social ecological model for health promotion)

Improving these health outcomes is multi-layered and needs to be addressed at various levels; from intrapersonal, interpersonal, organizational, and community/societal. The criterion for the Certified Healthy Congregation program spans these levels. This allows for the incorporation of proven public health approaches, directed at policy and environmental strategies, to reach large numbers of people and influence the improvement of health at multiple levels. Congregations have the potential to be instrumental in promoting healthy behaviors with their worshipers and surrounding communities, ensuring long-lasting lives free from chronic ailments


1 Harmon BE et al. 2014. Health Care Information in African-American Churches. Journal of Health Care for Poor and Underserved. February; 25(1): 242–256. doi:10.1353/hpu.2014.0047.

United States Census Bureau. 2018. Oklahoma Population Estimates. Available at

The Association of Religion Data Archives. U.S. Religion Census - Religious Congregations and Membership Study, 2020 (County File). Available at

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. About Chronic Diseases. Available at

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2017. Oklahoma Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey (BRFSS). Available at

Henry J Kaiser Family Foundation. 2017. Percent of Children (ages 10-17) Who are Overweight or Obese: Oklahoma. Available at,%22sort%22:%22asc%22%7D

7 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health and Economic Costs of Chronic Diseases. Available at

8 Finkelstein EA et al. 2009. Annual Medical Spending Attributable to Obesity: Payer- and Service-Specific Estimates. Health Affairs 28(5):w822-31.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Economic Trends in Tobacco. Available at

10 Campbell, M.K, et al. (2007). Church-Based Health Promotion Interventions: Evidence and Lessons Learned. The Annual Review of Public Health; 28:231-34.

11 Anshel, M.H. and Smith, M. (2014). The Role of Religious Leaders in Promoting Healthy Habits in Religious Institutions. Journal of Religious Health; 53:1046-1059.

12 Asomugha, C.N., Derose, K.P., and Lurie, N. (2011). Faith-Based Organizations, Science, and the Pursuit of Health. Journal of Health Care for Poor and Underserved; 22(1):50-55.

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