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. 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 launched the Global Health Initiative to focus and mobilize the people of The United Methodist Church into action against the diseases of poverty. Working with the United Nations Foundation (U.N. Foundation) and others brings 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 began a major education and fund-raising campaign to focus on one of these diseases: malaria. This effort strengthened our existing in-country clinics and hospitals and assisted in the prevention and treatment of malaria in developing nations.
A new focus on children
Abundant Health – Our Promise to Children is a new global health initiative of The United Methodist Church. Led by the Global Health unit of the General Board of Global Ministries, the program's goal is to provide grants to faith-based partners around the world to increase access to life-saving interventions to children.