A history of responding to need
The people of The United Methodist Church have a powerful record of joining together to develop a commanding response to issues of need. We are a denomination that has played a significant role in abolishing slavery and advocating for child labor laws, women's suffrage and civil rights. Our prevailing message is that we have the hope, the people and the power to facilitate change.
John Wesley understood the deeply intertwined relationship between poverty and poor health. Wesley's practical theology set high standards for disciples seeking to live in the example of Jesus Christ, who reached out to those on the margins of society, healed them and sent them back into their community for a greater good. As a faithful response to our discipleship, The United Methodist Church provides health care and aid in more than 27 countries through hospitals, clinic work, parish nursing programs and other volunteer opportunities.
Unfortunately, many of the health issues of Wesley's time are still a part of the 21st century landscape. Many people and communities throughout Africa, in particular, lack access to the basic rights of nutritious food, clean water, adequate shelter and essential medicines. Through drilling boreholes, building water-purification systems, and developing agricultural resources and adequate housing, the people of The United Methodist Church work tirelessly to help provide a better quality of life for others around the world.
In addition, the General Board of Global Ministries and its Division on Health and Welfare Ministries, United Methodist Committee on Relief and Women's Division have been active for decades in galvanizing people and resources to respond to three particularly devastating diseases of poverty: malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. This work has made health care accessible to more people regardless of age, race, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation or religion.
Renewed focus on eliminating diseases of poverty
There is much more work to be done. The time and opportunity have come for us to look forward to our next movement, a project that will bring the people of The United Methodist Church together to champion global health and change the world for those living in dire poverty. In many places around the world, malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis are medically interconnected. As one disease is addressed, the others are affected. For example, as we strive to prevent malaria, a killer disease of poverty, we open the door to tackling larger issues in global health.
In response, The United Methodist Church is launching the Global Health Initiative to focus and mobilize the people of The United Methodist Church into action against the diseases of poverty. At a point of great and historic opportunity, we are working with the United Nations Foundation (U.N. Foundation) and others to develop a partnership that will bring our existing health programs to a new level.
In Washington, D.C., on Dec. 18, 2006, The United Methodist Church and its leaders from around the world convened a Global Health Summit in partnership with the U.N. Foundation. The Summit sparked enthusiasm among religious leaders and dedicated lay people who subsequently committed to an enlarged and renewed focus on global health.
Beginning with malaria
To launch the Global Health Initiative, the church is exploring a major education and fund-raising campaign to focus on one of these diseases: malaria. This effort will strengthen our existing in-country clinics and hospitals and assist in the prevention and treatment of malaria in developing nations.
In the long term, the United Methodist campaign to conquer malaria will create a powerful foundation that will build a stronger and more broad-based community health infrastructure to help the Global Health Initiative in the fight against other diseases of poverty such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.