World Health Organization certifies Adventist schools as health advocates in El Salvador

WHO's International Network encourages schools to spread the Church's "I Want to Live Healthy" initiative.

San Salvador, El Salvador | Inter-America Division Staff

The World Health Organization (WHO) recognized the Seventh-day Adventist educational system as a promoter of health earlier this month.

The WHO’s EPODE International Network, which works with governments to ensure the sustainability of community-based programs and obesity prevention worldwide, certified the 25 Seventh-day Adventist primary and secondary schools across El Salvador, during a special ceremony at El Salvador Adventist Training School. The schools have been taking part in the church’s “I Want to Live Healthy” initiative.

“Ellen G. White said more than 100 years ago that health should be cared for and you as Seventh-day Adventists, having this valuable message, need to say it loudly, share this knowledge with everyone so that multitudes will benefit,” said Dr. Armando Barriguete, president of the EPODE International Network. Barriguete applauded the work of the Adventist Church, toured several adventist schools and spoke to students.

Ministry of Health in El Salvador Dr. Violeta Menjivar spoke about the increase in obesity in the Central American country.

“As a government official, as the health minister, I am alarmed about the increase in obesity and health problems affecting children and youth in El Salvador,” said Menjivar.

The figures are alarming. A 2014 national health survey found there was a 50 percent increase in obesity in children five years and younger compared to previous years.

Menjivar, went on to say that the government wants to partner with the Adventist Educational System with this health initiative. “Use all the means of communication to make your initiative known, we want to join you so that we can contribute to improving health in El Salvador,” she said.

Belkis Archbold, health ministries director for the church in Inter-America, congratulated church leaders and educators for their pioneering work in getting the initiative certified with EPODE International Network. El Salvador becomes the second country across the Inter-American Division territory to include the “I Want to Live Healthy” initiative in all of the church’s Adventist schools. Adventist schools in North Mexico began implementing the initiative in all of their schools last year.

“A child that eats healthy will become a healthy adult,” Archbold said.

Healthy students, teachers and parents is precisely the goal with the healthy initiative, said Dr. Xenia Burgos, education director for the church in El Salvador.

Burgos said the initiative began with the training of its 285 teachers in the Adventist educational system where they taught concepts, principles, and ideas on how to implement the program from pre-school to high school classrooms.

“Our teachers enrolled in the plan themselves,” explained Burgos. “We learned, lived and practiced the eight healthy habits ourselves and made true changes in our lifestyle.”

After eight weeks of living a healthy lifestyle, teachers led a week of health emphasis in each of the 25 adventist schools. The week after, students were challenged to put into practice the natural remedies for the following eight weeks.

One major change included replacing junk foods with cereals, fruits and juices across school’s stores.

“We wanted to make sure our students had only healthy foods available to them in our snack stores at every school,” said Burgos. “This made a tremendous difference as well.”

Parents were also encouraged to make healthy choices with seminars on the “I Want to Live Healthy” initiative said Burgos. Already the initiative has been included in each of the schools’ curriculum, as well as improving hygiene, waste treatment and more.

The health initiative presents a great opportunity for the 65 percent of enrolled students in Adventist schools who are not members of our church, added Burgos.

“Ellen G. White stated in chapter 40 of her book Education that when students leave our schools, they should be in better health and understand the laws of health better than when they entered, so we believe this is very important and will continue to implement in our schools,” Burgos said.

The Inter-American Division’s “I Want to Live Healthy” initiative includes promoting eight natural remedies needed to live a healthier life: water, rest, exercise, sunshine, air, nutrition, temperance, and hope in God.