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David R. Williams

is Florence Sprague Norman & Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, Professor of African and African American Studies and of Sociology, Harvard University

​The Health of Black America: What Seventh-day Adventists Can Do

David Williams’ article,“Race Matters for Health … A Lot!” in the February issue of Adventist Review, highlights a number of issues that urgently require address. Here he offers concrete answers to the question, “So what can I do?" 


Every year in The United States, more than 96,000 deaths occur in the Black population that would not occur if Blacks had the same death rates as Whites. The reasons range far beyond biology, to America’s unique history, group socioeconomic status, and the way medical treatment in America tends to relate to people of color. But there are specific things that the Seventh-day Adventist church can do about this through its system of hospitals, its educational institutions, its local congregations and its individual members.

What SDA Hospitals can do:

  • Give emphasis to prevention in the delivery of care.
  • Develop incentives and interventions to reduce normally occurring implicit biases that lead to social inequalities in care
  • Provide care that addresses the whole-person needs of the client, including supports to address barriers in the client’s environment and links to the non-medical resources that may be mobilized to assist the client.

What the SDA Educational Institutions can do:

  • Rethink and renew our commitment to Christian education that would ensure that each child has the opportunity for high-quality experiences from kindergarten through college.
  • Provide incentives so that every school can become a center of wellness for its students, staff and the surrounding community.
  • Invest in teacher preparation to ensure that all of our schools have high-quality teachers. (Teacher quality is one of the strongest predictors of student achievement, and student achievement is a predictor of health).

What SDA Churches can do:

  • Develop programs that enhance church members’ and the community’s s knowledge of food, fitness and sleep and encourage healthy choices.
  • Offer programs and outreach services to low income individuals to ensure that they have a marketable trade or skill to receive adequate income to support good health and refer people to resources that exist for help with the life challenges that they face
  • Offer programs that help individuals manage stress and support their access to services that provide resources to reduce levels of stress.

What every Church member can do:

  • Volunteer with church or community programs that provide advocacy and support services for the least of these.
  • Spend more time with people in distress (Volunteer to work for a crisis hotline; Become a mentor for children who are at risk of academic failure)
  • Become informed regarding the many social needs in your community and ask God’s guidance in making the love of Jesus real to people in need. 
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