Phase 1 – Taxonomy Development

Can religious practices within health interventions be scientifically classified?

In this first phase we will scope and draft a taxonomy from a systematic review of the literature on religious health interventions and key healthcare textbooks to develop the basis for this scientific classification of religious practices in health interventions.  How we will do this is briefly described below but full methods will be available on the open science framework.

1. We will conduct a systematic search, in accordance with the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidance, of existing systematic reviews and most recently published randomised controlled trials, feasibility studies and associated qualitative studies on religious healthcare practices.

2. We will identify and extract components in religious healthcare interventions through coding intervention descriptions and authors’ intervention protocols.  

3. In addition, we will will identify the most popular textbooks in clinical psychology, medicine, nursing and healthcare, chaplaincy and pastoral care which are used to train professionals on how to include religiously spiritual aspects into their practice that aims to improve health and wellbeing. To do this we are asking academics of religion and health from each of these fields:

“What is your top recommended textbook or training resource to develop competencies for practitioners to deliver religious health interventions?”    let us know…

4. Two researchers will systematically identify religious healthcare practices within the top ten recommended textbooks. They will search the index of these books for the words ‘religious’ or ‘spiritual’ and code the practices used. The details extracted here will be added to the coding from the empirical literature.

5. We will conduct a thematic analysis of codes into a draft taxonomy which includes categories and labels, contextualised by meaning, social context and religious affiliation, with examples of how they have been defined and used in health interventions. We expect an excerpt from our taxonomy might look something like this:


Religious Practice category

Religious Practice label



Religious Practice Context

Religious Affiliation

Example of description

Example of Health Intervention Context







Pray for help






Recognise inadequacy before God










Group and individual activity







“to seek God’s help to break chains and problem solve*








Additional to group activity practicing recognised problem solving techniques to help weight loss



Trust God to help


Be aware of God

Believe God will help you


Believe God is present with you

“by trusting in the Lord and acknowledging Him in all we do”


6. Our codes will be tagged to their background information source. These sources will be ranked according to the level of detail available on the intervention components, how well defined they are and how intuitively understandable they are. The categories arise from these codes will then be labelled with a high, medium and low ranking for ‘quality of background sources’ using traffic light colours.