More than 1,000 leading
Adventists gathered on Monday in Geneva, Switzerland, for a weeklong conference
that aims to create a community health center in every Seventh-day Adventist
church around the world.
The conference, which opens Tuesday with plenary speeches by Anselm Hennis, a senior official with the Pan-American
Health Organization, and world church
President Ted N.C. Wilson, will prepare the 1,150 attendees to share information on
how to live longer and healthier lives with their communities back home, said
organizer Peter Landless.
“We want to see every church
as a community health center, with every member being a health promoter and
embracing our amazing health message in their own lives,” said Landless, head
of the church’s Health Ministries department.
With the information
provided at the conference, every Adventist church could ultimately open a
fitness club and offer programs on stress management, diabetes and how to stop
smoking, among others, Landless said in a Skype interview.
The conference, titled
“Non-Communicable Diseases: Lifelong Lifestyle and Prevention, Accessible to
All,” is the second of its kind after an inaugural forum was held in Geneva in
2009. The gathering is the product of a joint effort between the church and the
World Health Organization/Pan-American Health Organization to improve the quality of
millions of lives.
Non-communicable diseases —
which cannot be passed from person to person and include heart disease, cancer, respiratory disease and diabetes — kill more
than 36 million people every year, according to the World Health Organization. The diseases are largely preventable, with their roots in
tobacco, alcohol, lack of exercise and poor diet.
This is where the Adventist
church has an opportunity to share its 150-year-old teachings about a healthy
diet and lifestyle to people both in and out of the church, Landless said.
“It was not only given so we
could live longer; then we would just be longer living sinners,” Landless said.
Adventist church co-founder “Ellen White made it clear that this [health message] was to make us fit for
He said an Adventist living
a healthy lifestyle was the best possible example to his or her neighbors.
Hennis, director of the
department of non-communicable diseases and mental health at the Pan-American
Health Organization, will kick off the conference at the University of Geneva with a keynote speech titled
“Non-Communicable Diseases: Our Challenge and Opportunity” on Tuesday morning.
Among the other highlights
will be a much-anticipated update from Gary Fraser on his groundbreaking
Adventist Health Study 2; the presentation of a brand-new stop-smoking
Breathe-Free 2.0; and a chance to meet U.S.
President Barack Obama’s former physician Jeffrey Kuhlman, who after his 2009-2013 stint now works as a senior vice president at Adventist-operated Florida Hospital. Director Martin Doblmeier will
present his documentary film
on Wednesday evening.
Claus Nybo, president of LifeStyleTV, a private,
Adventist-operated channel based in Sweden, said he was particularly eager to
hear the latest
scientific research on healthy lifestyles and the newest Adventist outreach
am hoping we can use some of this for new TV productions,” he said in an
interview Monday aboard an SAS airline flight from Copenhagen to Geneva. He and
his wife, Theresa, unexpectedly sat behind an
Adventist Review reporter on the flight.
Nybo said his other big goal
was to network with health professionals.
Nybo, scheduling director and producer at LifeStyleTV, echoed her husband. “I’m hoping to be able to
network with a lot of people and to be able to gain some more knowledge, to see
what other interesting scientific things are out there,” she said.
With it comes to networking,
Claus and Theresa Nybo will probably not be disappointed. Landless identified
networking as one of his priorities for the conference, and the list of 1,150
registered participants is packed with top-notch professionals and health-focused
individuals from the church.
Demand to attend the
conference was so high that organizers were forced to close registration six
weeks early. Some 900 people had been expected after 750 attended the first
conference in 2009, but demand exceeded 1,500, Landless said.