Higher rates of good health correlate with a higher prevalence of neighborhood religious institutions (i.e., the religious ecology) through various tangible benefits institutions provide. However, prior work on the religious ecology and health suffers from methodological weaknesses such as inconsistent comparisons of religious denominations; selection bias; flawed assumptions of stability of denominations over time, and analysis of the religious ecology at a single geographic level. Religious institutions have been closing at a dramatic rate since the year 2000. These closings present a methodologically robust opportunity to study potential causal impacts on population health.
A team of social epidemiologists, health geographers, and religion and health experts will create a novel dataset with 20 years of geospatially referenced religious institution closing indicators linked to physical health among individuals across four distinct geographic levels (e.g., Census tract and ZIP code) to test the hypothesis that poor health is associated with higher rates of churches closing. Findings will be disseminated through papers, public talks, and conferences. A website and dashboard to display the religious institution closings distributions will be created to inform a range of policy and health planning efforts