A Frightening Epidemic

In every form of news media these days you will hear about a pressing need that is gaining much attention: the epidemic of obesity. Obesity rates have reached 36 percent in the US population1, according to a recent report, with 70 percent of adolescents being overweight or obese.

Why is this so alarming? 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 wellbeing. Current evidence further suggests that people who are obese have a greater risk of premature deaths than those in the normal weight and overweight ranges.

The Adventist Response through Partnerships

As Christians we have opportunities to follow Jesus’ method of ministry2 as we respond to the health needs in our communities. Reversing obesity and other chronic diseases is a major need, and opportunities for partnerships abound.

In 2010 the Adventist church was invited by White House officials to pledge support to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! initiative aimed at reversing childhood obesity. In response, North American Division (NAD) launched the Adventists InStep for Life (AISFL) initiative with the goal of engaging kids, youth, parents, schools, and the community in working together to reduce the risk for chronic diseases—especially obesity—and improve the health of our communities by motivating adults and children to increase physical activity and healthier food intake. Schools, churches and hospitals have been promoting physical activity and healthy nutrition in innovative ways. Every NAD ministry is participating and we have pledged to increase youth involvement. NAD Pathfinders have a goal of one million miles, and the top clubs in percentage participation and miles will receive up to $2,000 in awards at Oshkosh in 2014.

Opportunities for  Involvement—Today

As part of the AISFL, the NAD has set aside Sunday, Sept. 22, as the 2013 Let’s Move Day and Sept. 22-28 as Let’s Move Week. Churches, schools and healthcare institutions are encouraged to host 5K runs/walks or other fun, active events for kids, youth and community families. If everyone reading this article registers online and reports their activities on www.AdventistsInStepforLife.org we will meet the entire country’s goal of two million miles in no time.

Remember that physical activity is not just about having fun as you improve your physical health, but your moral and spiritual strength, and your character, also depend on exercise.3 We are called to extend Jesus’ healing ministry in our communities. May God help us to “choose full life, and tell the world.”4

Guest author Katia Reinert is director of Health Ministries for the North American Division.

Photo Caption: Hubert Cisneros (center) MAUC Health Ministries director, accepted an award on behalf of the Kansas-Nebraska Conference at the 2013 NAD Health Summit in New York.

Photo Credit: Rohan Wellington