The Americas have the highest prevalence of obesity out of all World Health Organization regions, with 62.5% of adults being overweight or obese. This is what the Pan American Health Organization reports. To change this reality, the Seventh-day Adventist Church seeks to promote good habits and a healthy lifestyle in the communities where it operates.
In Rio de Janeiro, Bruna Carrione, director of Health Ministries for the Adventist church in the Pavuna neighborhood, decided to move the members and motivate them to have a healthier menu, drink more water, and practice physical exercises. She understands that the main problem is people felt pressured to practice better habits but did not receive adequate instructions and resources for how to implement this in their own lives.
According to Carrione, the first challenge was to get people to participate and identify with the theme. “I need to start, first, by winning over the church so I can get this message out, because it's no use bringing people from outside into the church and my church doesn't support me.”
From then on, Carrione started to hold commemorative events alluding to health, such as thematic months. The national calendar establishes, for example, “White January,” which recalls the importance of taking care of mental health. Each month, according to each subject, she carried out campaigns and special programs to attract people's attention.
Engagement and New Habits
This work started in 2021, and in May, Carrione decided to do a challenge. The fear of low adherence, she said, ended as soon as she saw the first results. The missions were simple: Consume one fruit a day during the week; then consume a certain amount of water; exercise; etc. Participants should post photos proving the completion of the day's task in the church's message board.
The Mais Saúde (“More Health”) project, as it was named, infected everyone. “People were excited. They started posting on their social networks, then people outside started to see it,” says Carrione.
“I've always liked health, good food, and I'm super in favor of the health message that the Adventist Church preaches, but the 'problem' is that there are a lot of guidelines, and we don't know where to start,” emphasizes Antonio Camelo, age 28, who participated in the challenge. Camelo is an accountant, and at that time, he worked from home. "The most interesting thing is that when I posted photos of the challenges on my social networks (this was part of the challenges), people were interested in the subject and wanted to participate, too.”
Immunity and Benefits
Some time after including healthier habits in his routine, Camelo caught COVID-19, and according to him, these changes made a positive difference in the disease process. “I believe that all the challenges prepared my body to overcome the disease in a way that was not aggressive. I, for example, didn't suffer much from shortness of breath, unlike my sister, who was sedentary,” he says in comparison.
The project was also taken to the community through Life and Health fairs and extending awareness of the need to include healthier foods in the menu and practice exercise. Today, the church also offers free psychotherapy or social values sessions for young people.
World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April. To celebrate, on Sunday, 10 April, the group will have “physical exercise, biblical reflection, and a fruit table” highlights Carrione. The Mais Saúde project is for everyone. Adults, children, and seniors are encouraged to participate.