Seeking to build on the success of its global health initiative “Imagine No Malaria,” The United Methodist Church this week affirmed its commitment to positively impact the lives of children everywhere through the next phase of its global health work. Coordinated by the denomination’s General Board of Global Ministries, “Abundant Health: Our Promise to Children” aims to reach 1 million children with lifesaving interventions by 2020.
Abundant Health: Our Promise to Children will be The United Methodist Church’s primary global health initiative for the next four years. It will focus on four core areas impacting the health of children throughout the world. The initiative aims to ensure safe births, address nutritional challenges and promote breastfeeding, advance prevention and treatment of childhood diseases, and promote children’s health and wholeness.
According to Global Ministries leaders, the motivation to launch the initiative emerged in part from an extensive survey of people in 59 countries. Survey results showed that the top global health challenges are maternal and child health, water and sanitation, hunger and nutrition, and access to health care. The survey also indicated the top U.S. health challenges are mental health, non-communicable diseases, substance abuse, and aging and the elderly.
“As United Methodists, we find care and concern for children rooted in our social principles, where we talk about putting children and their families first,” said Thomas Kemper, the church’s general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries. “This year’s conference affirmed that children have the right to food, shelter, clothing, health care, and emotional well-being, as do adults, and these rights are theirs regardless of the actions or inactions of their parents or guardians.”
“Our goal for Abundant Health is to promote the physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional health of children worldwide,” Kemper continued. “The initiative’s name is derived from the Gospel of John 10:10: ‘I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.’ We are committed to living into our promise to children by imagining abundant health for every child in every place.”
“When The United Methodist Church began its work on malaria eight years ago, no one imagined the impact the Imagine No Malaria campaign would have,” stated Kemper.
Through Imagine No Malaria, to date:
2.3 million mosquito nets were distributed, protecting 4.6 million people
300 clinics were improved, equipped and provided with malaria preventing commodities
13 health boards were trained to serve the people in 16 countries: Angola, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe
5.6 million lives were impacted
“Abundant Health: Our Promise to Children” will be led by Dr. Olusimbo Ige, executive director of the organization’s Global Health program, and her team. As a Nigerian, Ige has witnessed firsthand how limited or nonexistent access to medical services can impact a child.
“Abundant Health is a way for us to combine the work we have done overseas, taking care of people who are facing chronic needs, and bring it back to the United States,” said Ige. “We are thinking about people in our own communities who lack the healthy qualities of life they need to sustain themselves.”
“Globally, we will address malaria, diarrhea, birth complications, and respiratory infections in developing countries where resources are scarce,” said Ige. “But even here, in the United States, there is work we can do as a church to respond to health challenges.”
The Abundant Health program seeks to engage at least 10,000 churches in the United States to develop support systems for treatment, education and prevention in their surrounding communities. Global Ministries will encourage churches to engage their neighboring communities by promoting physical activities, encouraging healthy diet and nutrition, providing education for tobacco- and drug-free living, and promoting mental health education.
“There are many simple things a church can do to make a difference,” Ige said. “At their potluck dinners, churches can provide more fruits and vegetables. They can also provide opportunities for children to exercise or a space in the basement for a gym. And, churches can host summer food camps or invite someone to come in and talk about substance abuse.
“We want everyone to join in this effort and see what United Methodists are doing to affect their communities for good.”
This story was provided by United Methodist Communications.