« August 2012 « Feature
Adventists InStep for Life!
When Jesus was here on earth, He gave us a wonderful example of how to reach people. “Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people,” says the inspired writer. “The Savior mingled with men as one who desired their good. He showed His sympathy for them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me’” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 143). This powerful passage is at the heart of what Adventist health ministries is all about, as we aim to enable every church to be a center for health, healing, and wholeness in the community. By assessing people’s needs and then taking action to meet those needs, we are working as Christ worked.
But there are so many perceived health needs! Which one is more pressing? The answer to that question may depend on the individual, family, or community. However, there is one health challenge that is present in nearly every community.
The Need: Reversal of the Obesity Epidemic
If you keep close tabs on the media, no doubt you’ve heard about a pressing issue that has gained much attention lately: the epidemic of obesity. Obesity rates have tripled over the last decades, reaching 36 percent in the U.S. population, according to a recent report. The Weight of the Nation documentary was launched in May 2012 during an important conference sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control, delineating in detail the problem, its consequences, its root causes, and potential solutions. This documentary points out that 70 percent of adolescents are overweight and/or obese, and kids as young as six are starting to suffer from pre-diabetes, kidney problems, cholesterol issues, and high blood pressure. According to the Committee on Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention, if nothing is done, the rate of obesity will reach 42 percent by 2030.
Why is this a problem? Because obesity is related to more than 30 illnesses, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer. Obesity is also associated with stigma and reduced psychological well-being. Current evidence also suggests that people who are severely obese have a greater risk of premature death than those in the normal weight and overweight ranges. Thus, it is easy to see why obesity is considered one of the biggest drivers of preventable chronic diseases, preventable health-care costs, and a leading cause of preventable death (second only to smoking and obesity). It is a huge need that we, as Adventists, can and must do something about. As a response to this need, Adventists are promoting physical activity and healthy nutrition in innovative ways, as well as recognizing schools, churches, and hospitals for their participation and exceptional involvement.
Meeting the Challenge in the Southwestern Union
Looking at the problem from a more local perspective, in Texas, rates of obesity and inactivity are a priority for health care professionals. Out of 50 states, Texas ranks 42 in terms of obesity. That number represents 5.8 million obese adults. As a result, diabetes also follows the same pattern. Among Hispanics the prevalence is high (36 percent) and for non-hispanic Blacks there is also a high incidence of obesity (38.5 percent). However, the Adventist Church is already planning and creating partnerships with the community to help address this problem. For instance, the Joshua, Texas, church is reaching out to their community, planning for a health expo and a Let’s Move Day event, and the Richardson, Texas, church is already reporting miles of activity. Among all the conferences in the Southwestern Union, the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference is leading with the highest number of miles logged and community gardens. Last year, they received the NAD Adventists InStep for Life award from the NAD president, Dan Jackson, and the U.S. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin, M.D. We hope other conferences will follow the example of the Arkansas-Louisiana Conference and continue to make an impact for kids, families, and communities.
There is no doubt God knew best when He told us that the health message is the right arm of the gospel and an entering wedge. By helping to meet this pressing health need, we are able to use the “right arm” and engage this “entering wedge” in a relevant way, building trusting relationships that can lead to further opportunities to share Jesus’ invitation to “Follow Me.”
On September 23, the North American Division (NAD) Health Ministries Department will once again sponsor “Let’s Move Day,” a fun-filled day of activities designed to encourage children and their families to become more active.
There are a number of ways in which you and your church can participate—it’s up to you and your creativity to decide how to implement the activities in your own community. Some churches are partnering with schools, health care institutions, and other community agencies to sponsor a 5K run/walk, others are hosting a “fun day” with a variety of activity stations that encourage kids to move more, and others are initiating community gardens and encouraging community members to get involved.
The entire week of September 23-29 has also been designated by NAD as Let’s Move Week, and some churches are planning a week-long emphasis on health, inviting the community to attend the final program on Sabbath.
For more information on how to plan a Let’s Move Day event, as well as how to register yourself and your church in the AISFL initiative and to report gardens and miles toward our two million-mile goal, please go to www.AdventistsInStepforLife.org. It’s not too late to plan some kind of activity that will encourage your church and community to get fit. Why not get started right away?
Moving Forward in 2012
The Adventists InStep for Life (AISFL) initiative aims to engage kids, youth, parents, schools, and the community in working together to fight obesity while increasing physical activity of adults and kids and helping encourage healthier food choices. If everyone who reads this article registers and reports their activities on the Web site, we will meet the entire country’s goal in no time. Are you willing?
The four goals and reporting opportunities for 2012 are:
- Collectively accumulating two million miles through walking and other activities (including the Let’s Move Day miles).
- Having 60 percent of students in Adventist schools achieve the NAD AISFL lifestyle challenge award and President’s Active Lifestyle Awards. For more information, visit https://www.presidentschallenge.org/celebrate/active-lifestyle.shtml.
- Launching 100 summer feeding programs (through VBS, camps, community service activities, etc.), so kids have access to healthy meals when school is out.
- Starting 100 community vegetable gardens or farmers' markets at schools and churches to invite people who do not have their own space to grow food.