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Adventist Health Ministries

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Why are Seventh-day Adventists interested in Health?

(The Adventist Health Advantage)

The work of healthcare and healing is a central belief of the Adventist Church.

As early as 1863, Ellen White, co-founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, counseled the fledgling on the importance of healthful living. The outstanding feature of her initial message was the relation between physical welfare and spiritual health, or holiness. In 1866, the early Adventist Church started the western Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, Michigan. Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, a Seventh-day Adventist pioneer, and his brother William were complicit in developing what we know today as corn flakes and improving the production of peanut butter.

Throughout her life, Ellen White was the channel of information that fashioned the church’s philosophy and emphasis on health. Long before medical evidence emerged on the dangers of smoking, Ellen White spoke out strongly on this and other issues, including the use of alcohol and poisonous medications such as arsenicals and mercury-based drugs. The drinking of tea and coffee, and use of stimulants was very strongly discouraged, as, ultimately, was the use of flesh food. She promoted a lacto-ova vegetarian diet as the optimal diet. In addition, the use of fresh, clean water (inside and out), clean air, adequate exercise and rest, faith, appropriate sunshine exposure, integrity and social support were strongly encouraged. These principles still form the foundation of our health education and practice. The health teaching and initiatives of the Seventh-day Adventist Church are based on the Bible, Ellen White’s counsels, and evidence-based scientific health principles.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Seventh-day Adventist church led the way in the smoking cessation initiatives of the world by developing the famous Five-day Plan to Stop Smoking. This program was subsequently revised twice and now functions as the Breathe Free 2 program. The program is implemented in countries around the world via the Internet and in group meetings. The Adventist church has a strong history of promoting temperance and promoting the abstinence from alcohol. It continues to do this work through the auspices of the International Health and Temperance Association and the International Commission for the Prevention of Alcoholism and Drug Dependency (ICPA).

Time (October 1966) reported the positive outcome of the first Adventist Health Study, describing the results as the “Adventist Advantage.” There was significant reduction in most cancers, and cirrhosis of the liver. Subsequent studies have shown a significant increase in longevity in those living the Adventist lifestyle. The results of meta-analyses have been so compelling that NIH allocated $29 million to conduct Adventist Health Study II (AHS 2), with a special emphasis on the differences in malignancies between Adventists and the general population.

Further international attention was focused on the Adventist health emphasis in the November 2005 issue of National Geographic, which emphasized the “secrets of living longer.” This reporting stimulated Dan Buettner to write the book entitled The Blue Zones. A blue zone is an area or region where people remain healthy and well, actively participating into their 80s, 90 and even 100s! The longevity of Seventh-day Adventists has been documented in numerous parts of the world and is a reproducible endpoint which demonstrates the benefits of the lifestyle and wholistic approach of Seventh-day Adventists to daily living.

In February 2009, U.S. News and World Report posted an article entitled “10 Habits That Will Help You Live to 100!” Number 8 stated:
“Live like a Seventh-day Adventist. Americans who define themselves as Seventh Day Adventists (sic) have an average life expectancy of 89, about a decade longer than the average American. One of the basic tenets of the religion is that it’s important to cherish the body that’s on loan from God, which means no smoking, alcohol abuse, or overindulging in sweets. Followers typically stick to a vegetarian diet based on fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts, and get plenty of exercise. They’re also very focused on family and community.”

The first Adventist Health Study took place in California, comparing the health of Seventh-day Adventists and non-Seventh-day Adventists. This showed the advantages alluded to already and significantly prolonged life expectancy of between 7 to 9 years. AHS-2 has enrolled 95,000 participants throughout the USA and Canada, and has a special focus on diversity and a sub-study on spirituality and health. Already, there are exciting facts emerging confirming the benefits of a plant-based diet and how this impacts and reduces the incidence of non-communicable diseases.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has six medical schools (three more are in the planning stages in East Central Africa and South America), over 70 nursing schools, and 650 hospitals, clinics, and dispensaries. Over 250,000 employees work in the various denominational health systems which are all not-for-profit. Over 19 million outpatients and 1.5 million inpatients are served each year. Charity healthcare to the value of over 1.1 billion US dollars is extended to the various communities worldwide annually.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a track record of collaboration with both the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO). And is currently engaged in a collaborative project focused on reducing maternal mortality in four African countries including Lesotho, Cameroon, Malawi, and Botswana. Partners in the latter project include General Conference Adventist Health Ministries, Loma Linda University, and the World Health Organization. The church has active collaborative projects with PAHO in South America’s most needy countries, especially in the area of mental health. The Adventist Church has organized and sponsored two Global Conferences on Lifestyle and Health in Geneva; PAHO and WHO have been active partners in these ventures. The most recent Global Conference took place in Loma Linda, California, in July 2019.

  • D.E. Robinson, The Story of Our Health Message, Southern Publishing Association, 1965
  • Time magazine, October 28, 1966
  • Gary E. Fraser, Diet, Life Expectancy, and Chronic Disease: Studies of Seventh-day Adventists and Other Vegetarians, Oxford University Press, 2003
  • Dan Buettner, The Secrets of Long Life, National Geographic, November 2005
  • U.S.News & World Report, February 20, 2009

Mission

The General Conference Health Ministries Department exists to support and empower Seventh-day Adventist churches, members, and institutions around the world to experience the blessings of wholistic health while actively sharing those blessings with others. We believe that we have been created as wholistic beings with physical, mental, spiritual, social, and relational dimensions. We believe that God is deeply interested in the health and well-being of humanity, and that He wants to use His church as a special agent of healing to relieve suffering and reveal His love.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church has a rich history of practical health ministry. For over 150 years, the church has supported whole-person health in a variety of ways, including health publications, lifestyle education, the establishment of hospitals, clinics, and sanitariums around the world, training of healthcare professionals and lay members, church-based community health initiatives, medical missions, and more.

  • Supporting health ministries leaders around the world.
  • Training health ministries leaders and members to engage in effective health ministry.
  • Developing health resources and programs for churches and members to use and share.
  • Publishing relevant articles, stories, and news.
  • Inspiring the church to understand, experience, and share the health message.
  • Advising the church and its agencies on health-related policies and programs.
  • Supporting the establishment and growth of Adventist healthcare institutions and educational programs.
  • Supporting the health of pastors and other denominational employees.
  • Making a positive difference in the wholistic health and well-being of the communities we serve.

Philosophy

We believe in a “ministry of healing” by which people can be restored to wholeness. Reflecting on the life of Christ, the apostle Luke wrote that “Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Here we see the four dimensions of wholistic health: mental, physical, spiritual, and social. We believe in “whole-person care,” which addresses each of these dimensions.

We emphasize the prevention of disease and relief of suffering through simple lifestyle habits that correspond with the way God created us to live, and at the same time acknowledge the effectiveness of evidence-based therapy when disease has already occurred.

We believe that God is constantly working to heal people on the deepest level, and that His healing power is available to us today, giving us wholeness in our brokenness:

“He [God] is just as willing to heal the sick now as when He was personally on earth. Christ’s servants are His representatives, the channels for His working. He desires through them to exercise His healing power” (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 823).

The four foundational principles which guide our department’s philosophy and work are:

  1. Inspiration: We believe the Word of God is the very best guide to making wise choices in every area of life and health. Scripture speaks eloquently on a wide variety of health topics and reveals a loving God who wants to give His children life “more abundantly)” (John 10:10). We are also grateful for the amplification of Biblical health principles in the writings of Ellen G. White.
  2. Evidence: We operate under the conviction that God is the author of all true science. Therefore, we respect evidence-based health science which stands up to the rigors of careful examination and analysis according to accepted scientific principles. We believe this is vital in a world filled with misinformation and falsehood.
  3. Balance: Because we are wholistic beings, a balanced approach in life is essential to health. This involves avoiding harmful practices and using wisely and carefully even the best things in life. Even good things can be taken to excess. Therefore, we are deeply committed to physical, mental, social, and spiritual balance to support health, happiness, and healing.
  4. Relationships: Social and spiritual support are essential to health and human flourishing. Cultivating positive relationships with God, family members, friends, and community members will play a significant role in our personal health, productivity, and ability to help others.

In summary, we want to be used by God to share His healing love with others. Jesus put it best when He said:

“The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)

We hope this website blesses you in your journey toward abundant life and health.

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  • Facts of Hope | Amazing researched facts to rejuvenate your health