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Adventist InStep for Life program a highlight of the Annual Health Summit in Orlando, FL

One of the highlights of this year’s Annual Health Summit in Orlando, FL sponsored by the North American Division of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, was the Adventist InStep for Life Celebration and Awards event. This year’s program marked the extraordinary achievements of Adventist hospitals, health ministers and congregations who are leading the way in increasing opportunities for physical activity and access to healthy, affordable food in their communities.

Adventist InStep for Life

Heidi Christensen, Associate Director at the HHS Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships; Donna Richardson Joyner, member of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; Dr. Regina Benjamin, U.S. Surgeon General; and Dan Jackson, President of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists, celebrate with Dr. Leonard Gibbons of the Bermuda Conference as he receives an award for his Adventist InStep for Life achievement.

Created in response to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, the Adventists InStep for Life program was designed to help Adventist churches, schools and health care organizations join in the effort of reversing the trend toward childhood obesity. Every NAD conference, church, school, university and health care organization has been encouraged to form an Adventists InStep for Life team to coordinate activities that increase physical activity, inspire nutritional eating, and create access to healthy, affordable food.

And their communities answered the call by collectively walking over two million miles (double their goal of one million miles walked!), adding 16 summer feeding sites so that kids wouldn’t go hungry when school was out, and planting 101 new community gardens!

The gathering was honored by the presence of the Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Regina Benjamin, who recognized the Adventists as early leaders in the effort to emphasize wellness and preventive care as a priority. Dr. Benjamin shared the opportunities in the National Prevention Strategy and exlpained its primary goal of moving the healthcare system from a focus on sickness and disease to a focus on wellness and prevention. “If we want to truly reform health care in this country,” she said, “we need to prevent people from getting sick in the first place, to stop illness and disease before it starts.”

The Surgeon General recognized the Adventist Church’s proactive nature and “wellness-first” strategies, and noted that the community was an exemplar of “making health something you live, not just something you hope happens.”

The HHS Partnership Center joined Dr. Benjamin; Donna Richardson Joyner, a member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition; Katia Reinert, director of Health Ministries for the North American Division of Seventh-Day Adventists; and Dan Jackson, President of the North American Division, to celebrate and present awards to those across the country who led the way in making their communities healthier. All award recipients and many of their success stories can be found at

As the Adventist community looks forward, their commitment to make “Every Church a Center for Health, Healing and Wholeness” seems well within reach, given the strength of their national leadership, their capacity to train and equip community members, and their clear vision that healthful practices are part of God’s intent that all shall “have life and have it more abundantly.”

To see how the Adventists adapted the Let’s Move Faith and Communities toolkit for use throughout their communities, check out the Adventists InStep for Life toolkit.

Adventists InStep for Lifeis sponsored by the Seventh-Day Adventist Church in North America, its Health institutions and Hope Channel and coordinated by the Adventist Health Ministries department.

Heidi Christensen is the Associate Director for Community Engagement at the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.