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Exploring the impact of religion and spirituality on health outcomes and engaging religious and spiritual resources in health care contexts.

How do religious and spiritual beliefs and practices intersect with human health? Medical research hints at connections that are not yet fully understood, and points to applications that have not been fully implemented.

Accordingly, our investment for this priority will flow into two focus areas:

  • Investigating the causal relationships between health, religion, and spirituality. Are there robust associations between religious or spiritual beliefs, experiences, practices, and identities, on the one hand, and physical and mental health on the other? Are such associations causal in nature, and if so, what are the underlying causal mechanisms? We will seek to address two basic issues: the lack of longitudinal studies focusing on religion; and the limitations (or absence) of religion and spirituality measures in extant major health cohort studies.
  • Engaging religious and spiritual resources in the practice of health care. In particular we will focus our investments on the following lines:
    • Increasing the religious and spiritual competencies of health care practitioners. This will involve applied research concerning the scope of such competencies, how such competencies might differ among health care disciplines, how they are best assessed, what training models are most effective, and ultimately what difference possessing such competencies makes on health outcomes.
    • Testing the impact of religiously integrated therapies. Does infusing religious or spiritual content into conventional therapies increase their effectiveness? Does including religious or spiritual interventions within treatment improve patient outcomes? If so, why and for whom?
    • Increasing the scientific literacy of health care chaplains. What difference do chaplains make to health care outcomes? Can chaplains be trained to become more research literate?

Featured Grants

Human Sciences
Project Leader(s): Alexandra Shields
Grantee(s): The General Hospital Corporation d/b/a Massachusetts General Hospital
Human Sciences
Project Leader(s): Jean Golding, Kate Northstone
Grantee(s): University of Bristol
Human Sciences
Project Leader(s): Joseph Currier, Jesse Fox, Holly Oxhandler, Kenneth Pargament, Michelle Pearce, Edward Polson, Cassandra Vieten
Grantee(s): University of South Alabama
Human Sciences
Project Leader(s): Christina Puchalski, George Fitchett, Betty Ferrell
Grantee(s): George Washington University
Human Sciences
Project Leader(s): Tin Tin Su, Pascale Allotey
Grantee(s): Monash University Malaysia