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Dr. Peter Landless, a former member of President Nelson Mandela’s cardiology team and a recipient of South Africa’s Southern Cross Medal, became the new Health Ministries director for the Seventh-day Adventist Church on October 1. The post is one that includes charting the course of health promotion, which has made Seventh-day Adventists the longest-living people group ever studied. The latest results of the ongoing Adventist Health Study 2 were reported by major international news media in June.
The denomination’s healthy lifestyle—including a vegetarian diet, abstaining from alcohol and tobacco, and Sabbath rest—has been documented extensively in magazines and books. Many organizations over the years have adopted Adventist health curriculum as their official health training. Landless says the Adventist Church’s increasing number of collaborations give it new openings to publically promote its message on health and gain behind-the-scenes chances to serve more governments.
In 2009, the Seventh-day Adventist Church became the first denomination to collaborate with WHO as it sought faith-based partnerships to help implement including the UN Millennium Development Goals in local areas. The denomination will meet again with top WHO leaders next year in Geneva.
Landless succeeds Dr. Allan Handysides, a longtime missionary to Africa, who urged the church to establish such collaborations and helped the global Protestant denomination establish the Adventist AIDS International Ministry, which has established hundreds of church-based care groups and has served tens of thousands of people living with HIV/AIDS in Africa.
Landless, 63, says he will build on such ministries and collaborations and keep promoting health practices that are biblical and evidence-based.
“We need to keep in the forefront of the vision of the church the grace-filled, balanced health message, which reveals the love of God for a broken world,” he said.
Landless, 63, is the former director of the Coronary Care Unit at the Johannesburg Hospital and served on Mandela’s cardiology team from 1993 to 1995. His award of the Southern Cross Medal came one year after he survived a landmine accident. He still bears scars and damage to his hand. His driver was killed as he and his team traveled back from treating an infant along the Namibian-Angolan border in 1979. At the time, Landless was serving as a drafted, non-combatant physician and running six clinics a week for the underserved.
He was also a missionary in South Africa near the Lesotho border from 1976 to 1987.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church next year will open its sixth medical school—in the Philippines. The denomination recently opened two other medical schools in emerging market countries—Nigeria and Peru. The church also operates medical schools in Mexico and Argentina. Another is likely on the horizon in Africa. The denomination’s flagship medical school is Loma Linda University in Loma Linda, Ca., USA.
The church next year will release its latest version of “Breathe Free,” which is update of the first smoking cessation program that was launched by the church in the 1950s. The updated version was rewritten in collaboration with the University of the United Arab Emirates and Loma Linda University. The church continues its advocacy for tobacco control through partnerships in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Asia.
There are 17.5 million Seventh-day Adventists worldwide. Approximately 37 percent of members live in Africa. Another 32 percent live in Latin America. In the U.S., where the denomination started in 1863, there are approximately 1.1 million members.
The Adventist Church is committed to the development of minds and characters through education and joyous living in celebration of health. The denomination promotes healthful living and operates the largest Protestant network of hospitals and schools worldwide.
Adventists also strive to defend religious freedom of belief. The denomination launched in 1893 what is now the International Religious Liberty Association (irla.org), a non-sectarian organization promoting freedom of conscience for all people everywhere. The church also provides disaster relief and community development projects worldwide through the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (adra.org).