Every mission starts with a story; ours was pivotal. In 1863, our newly formed grass-roots organisation faced a health crisis. All of our leaders were too sick to attend a scheduled meeting, halting the activities of our fledgling organisation. Through this crisis, a “radical” vision was presented of a new healthcare approach that emphasised preventing illness, enhancing quality of life and promoting longevity through proper nutrition, exercise, sanitation and spiritual connection with God.
Although this approach was contrary to the health beliefs of the day (an era when doctors prescribed smoking to their patients), the seed had been planted for what would become the greatest health and lifestyle “disrupter” of the modern era.
Our first health facilities, which we called sanitariums, were places where patients not only came for treatment, but where their entire family would learn to be well through our whole-person health approach that included a person’s physical, mental, emotional, social and spiritual health.
From these humble beginnings we expanded into health research and health education in universities and colleges; cared for the health of people through our 175 hospitals and 385 medical clinics; created and launched major health education initiatives (including the fight against smoking); established the early health food industry; cared for over 14 million needy and displaced people through our aid and development initiatives; and had a positive health and lifestyle impact on millions of people through the 130+ countries we now operate in.
One of our major contributions to lifestyle wellness has been our long-term research into, promotion and practice of whole food plant-based nutrition, now recognised through scientific literature as a major contributor to achieving wellness. In fact, Seventh-day Adventists in Loma Linda, USA were identified by Dan Buettner in National Geographic as being one of 5 regions in the world – Blue Zones – where people live healthier for longer. Adventist health principles and lifestyle were key contributors to their longevity, with Adventists living up to ten more quality years than the rest of the nation.
Today, through our advances in lifestyle research, we recognise that wellness encompasses more than just our mind, body and good nutrition. Whole-person health encompasses physical, social, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, environmental and vocational dimensions, which form the foundation of our approach to wellness today.
Not only did our “radical” vision recreate the wellness of our leaders back in 1863, but now over 150 years later, the vision to recreate wellness for everyone remains at the core of our movement and is expressed through our Adventist Health philosophy, vision, mission and activities.