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How Will U. S. Healthcare Reform Adventism?

With the healthcare policy debate currently going on in Congress and across the nation, Adventists have a big stake (or little steak?) in the outcome of this reform legislation.

From our healthcare history with the Battle Creek Sanitarium to Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center; from the thousands of grassroots health “nuts” in our church to the evangelistic work of cooking and Stop Smoking Classes; from the thousands from Adventist health professionals around the world to the hundreds of thousands of patients; from our “ministry of healing” witness to the millions of health care dollars that keep our church institutions, families and local churches humming along, Adventist health affects us all.

Given the tens of millions of uninsured Americans, the exploding cost of healthcare, the problems with private insurance and the political challenge in implementing a public option, how does this affect Adventism, and at some point, you?

A couple of decades ago, on the cover of Spectrum, Roy Branson asked: What’s a little church like us doing in big healthcare?

Well, we’re bigger than we were then, but healthcare in terms of cost and role in Adventist has exploded. And the question still stands, even as we expand around the world.

Two recent Adventist News Network stories reveal how Adventist healthcare is already changing in globalized ways. On July 7, at the Global Conference on Health and Lifestyles in Geneva, General Conference President Jan Paulsen delivered the keynote address, saying:

“An individualistic, inward-looking conception of Christianity is utterly at odds with the savior who reached out to restore blind men’s eyes, cured lepers and healed an emotionally broken woman,” Paulsen said. “We cannot express our faith, our desire to imitate Christ, in seclusion.”

At the conference, about 500 Adventist leaders met with high level representatives from the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization to explore ways that Adventists can help in implementing the U.N. Millennium Development Goals. ANN reports that,

During his half-hour speech, Paulsen said the church would continue to prioritize facilitating, funding and supporting professional medical healthcare through its network of more than 600 hospitals, clinics and dispensaries. The denomination’s 150-year health focus also emphasizes health education, advocacy of vegetarianism and living alcohol- and drug-free.

Paulsen also addressed concerns that partnerships would be at odds with the church’s mission, saying, “Some have been critical, and rightly so, of an eschatological perspective that serves simply to reconcile us to current miseries. Awaiting [Christ’s return] is not a passive exercise, but something that demands action [in] the present.”

On July 14, ANN reports that the World Health Organization and the Seventh-day Adventist Church are working out the details of a possible colloration.

“The miniscule difference between the different kinds of vegetarian diets is not worth, in my opinion, the time and effort we devote to it,” said Dr. Allan Handysides, director of the church’s Health Ministries. “We need to have larger goals and larger strategies,” he said.

“The most important way we can influence our communities is through lifestyle issues,” Handysides said.

Such an influence would include getting back to church co-founder Ellen White’s instruction from the 1860s to have each local church serve as a community health center, church leaders said.

“We have a lot of real estate that’s not used six days a week,” said Dr. Peter Landless, associate Health Ministries director for the Adventist Church.

Clearly, many Adventist leaders are beginning to think big about healthcare.


In light of these developments in global Adventist healthcare and the reform debate going on in the U.S. Congress, the Spectrum Blog will be doing a series on healthcare reform and Adventism. We’d like to include diverse perspectives from health care practitioners to patients, left to right, administrators to health care package recipients. Policy wonkery, philosophical rants and personal testimonies are welcome.

What questions do you have about Adventism and healthcare?

How might/should healthcare reform affect our system?

How does our system as a part of the System, affect our witness?

How might/should our historically distinctive emphasis on prevention, vegetarianism, and spiritual wholeness mix with the Millennium Development Goals?

Should Adventists support a public option?

We want to hear from you (or at least as the graphic above reveals, from you via your keyboard). If we missed some questions Adventists should ask, please share them below. If you’d be interested in contributing an essay, email alexander[at]spectrummagazine[dot]org

Let’s have a healthy exchange of ideas.

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