Every new year many stop to ponder a new beginning in life. This effort often includes resolutions to improve one’s health and wellbeing, but often the focus is self-centered and may exclude resolutions that could impact the lives of family members, the community or the world. I would like to challenge each reader to consider how we may impact not only our own health, but also the wellbeing of those around us—near or far.

Recently, the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO), have renewed their commitment to improve the health of communities, countries, and the world by identifying 17 new health-related goals for the next 15 years, calling them Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).1

Many of these goals refer to key global health issues that, as elders and ministry leaders around the world, we should not only be aware of but help to achieve. If we understand Christ’s methods we will see the importance of learning about people’s needs but being relevant in our efforts to meet these needs. As it turns out, many of the SDG’s impact each of us, but also our neighbors and communities.

In the next “Healthy Tips” we will discuss a few of these issues. Let’s begin with SDG 16:

This goal aims to: “Promote peaceful and inclusive societies. . ., provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.” One of two strategies is to: “End abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and the torture of children.”1

Evidence shows that our relationships have much more to do with our health than we previously thought. We know now that while supportive social connections have a powerful influence on how long and how well we live, unhealthy relationships have the opposite effect. Overtime exposure to physical, sexual, or emotional violence, or the stress related to abuse is linked to many diseases.

In fact, violence in all its forms (domestic violence, youth violence, gender-based violence, elder abuse) has been linked to poor health and higher global mortality. The World Health Organization (WHO) notes the contagion of violence spreads much like a disease. For instance, a study2 funded by WHO showed that at least 1 in 7 homicides globally and more than 1 in 3 female homicides are perpetrated by an intimate partner. In addition, we know that intimate partner violence (IPV) is associated with depressive symptoms in both men and women and also with suicide attempts in women.3

Child abuse is another factor. In a study conducted among Adventists in North America,4 those with exposure to child abuse (sexual, physical, emotional, neglect or witnesses parental abuse) had worse physical and mental health when compared with people who were never abused as a child—even when their education, income, levels of exercise and intake of fruits and vegetables were controlled for. More disconcerting yet was that the prevalence of types of child abuse among Adventists were higher than compared with rates among the general US population.4

This reality may be shocking to some, but if you or someone you know have been a survivor of abuse or violence understand how easy it is to keep our heads in the sand. The good news is that there is something each of us can do to change this picture. The church is renewing its commitment on raising awareness, providing resources, but also encouraging leaders and members to be part of the solution. The global End It Now5 initiative has expanded to include all forms of abuse—including child abuse, elder abuse—among both men and women.

I pray each of us will thoughtfully consider how we can make a difference in this area. We may start in our own families, then our church, work or school, and perhaps expand our influence further into the community.

In Isaiah 61 we are reminded that Christ came to “heal the brokenhearted” and to give people beauty for the ashes they received from violent or abusive relationships. That is good news! The prophet wrote that the Lord loves justice and hates wrongdoing (Is. 61:1, 3, 8). We are called to be His hands and feet, and follow His example.

1 World Health Organization. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/events/meetings/2015/un-sustainable-development-summit/en/. Or https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/.

2. Stöckl, H., Devries, K., Rotstein, A., Abrahams, N., Campbell, J., Watts, J., Moreno, C. (2013). The global prevalence of intimate partner homicide: a systematic review. The Lancet, pii: S0140-6736(13)61030-2. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(13)61030-2.

3 Devries, K., et al (May 2013), Intimate Partner Violence and Incident Depressive Symptoms and Suicide Attempts: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Studies. PLoS Medicine; 10:5, e1001439.

4 Reinert, K., Campbell, J., Bandeen-Roche, K., Sharps, P., & Lee, J. (May 5, 2015), Gender and Race Variations of the Intersection between Religious Involvement, Early Trauma and Adult Health. Journal of Nursing Scholarship. doi: 10.1111/jnu.12144.

5 www.EnditNow.org

Katia Reinert is associate director of the Health Ministries Department for the General Conference.