PRACTICING WHAT THEY PREACH: Darren Morton (right), an expert in the field of lifestyle medicine, walks with colleagues. PHOTO: Courtesy of Sanitarium

Feature

Cathy McDonald

is general manager for health and wellbeing services for Sanitarium in Berkeley Vale, New South Wales, Australia

​Radical Transformation— Hope Worth Sharing

Health and healing in the South Pacific Division

When Shelley Poole signed up for a CHIP program at a local Seventh-day Adventist church in Australia in July 2013, she didn’t realize what a significant impact the 30-day course would have on her life. Far from being a regimented health program that improved physical health measures alone, she was amazed to find that it positively affected other dimensions of her life.

“My anxiety, depression, and insomnia have improved to the point where I genuinely feel I need to keep this lifestyle going rather than treat it as a short-term diet,” she said after completing the program. “Overall, I feel a lot more at ease and comfortable with life.”

CHIP, or the Complete Health Improvement Program, is just one of the avenues through which Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing, on behalf of the South Pacific Division (SPD), is influencing communities with whole-person health and healing. This is an intentional approach that aligns with the strategic emphasis of the General Conference for comprehensive health ministry.

We regularly see programs such as CHIP literally transforming lives for good. So powerful are some of the outcomes, that it inspires us to continue to help others experience the abundant life Jesus spoke about in John 10:10.

Sanitarium—a Key Contributor to the SPD Community Health Vision

Sanitarium Health and Wellbeing, which has operated in Australia and New Zealand for more than 115 years, has been commissioned by the SPD to provide support to communities in three strategic areas: health and healing in the workplace (Vitality Works), the city (Sanctuary), and the community (CHIP).

Health and Healing in the Workplace

Vitality Works facilitates whole-person health by crafting a unique program for each workplace to boost the health of employees and their wider organization.

Vitality Works employs more than 200 people across Australia and New Zealand, with a range of programs that focus on four main areas:

  • Health and Medical—health checks, influenza vaccinations, and preemployment screening.
  • Educational—workshops, wellness calendars, and a wellness portal.
  • Injury Prevention and Health Management—including SafeSpine (a musculoskeletal health education program specializing in injury reduction), workplace assessments, and fatigue management.
  • Health and Well-being—Executive Peak Performance, Stress, and Resiliency, and Pedometer Walking and team challenges such as the Eat, Move, Live and Fit24 programs.

Results from the activities of Vitality Works are impressive. For example, in a report prepared on the effectiveness of the SafeSpine program operating in a rail engineering and construction company, the health and safety manager stated it hadreduced the musculoskeletal injury rate at one of their worksites by 89 percent. This result is significant because this level of injury reduction has an enormous flow-on effect to individual staff well-being, team morale, culture, and company costs around lost time and workers’ compensation.<strong>STRETCH THOSE MUSCLES:</strong> Miners participate in a stretching routine led by a Vitality Works employee.

Other programs offered by Vitality Works such as the Pedometer Challenges, Executive Peak Performance, and Fit24 have resulted in workplaces reporting decreases of up to 30 percent in absenteeism, collective weight loss, and a significant return on investment, usually of about 3:1. This is not simply about a commercial benefit to the workplace and its financial return on investment; the daily operations of Vitality Works are bringing real health and healing opportunities to individuals.

Vitality Works has a vision to touch the lives of more than 1 million people across Australia and New Zealand during the next three years, and we believe our programs are genuinely enabling individuals to give consideration to their current wholistic health and well-being.

Health and Healing in the City

With the writings of Ellen White inspiring the concept of small centers of influence,1 Sanctuary opened in 2010 in the center of Sydney. Sanctuary is a unique medical practice offering a range of services via a multidisciplinary team including doctors, a physiotherapist, psychologist, podiatrist, exercise physiologist, dietitian, and massage therapists.

But Sanctuary takes a wider approach to health than what might initially be considered at a standard medical clinic. Its philosophy involves inspiring and empowering people to enjoy a wholistic lifestyle incorporating the whole being. This approach is unique and grounded in genuine care and whole-person health.

Services and interactive programs at Sanctuary include a mix of exercise sessions, a weight program, CHIP, and the complimentary services of a community chaplain.

Health and Healing in the Community

Shelley’s positive experience with CHIP is not an isolated case. In fact, more than 60,000 people worldwide have completed the CHIP program administered by the Lifestyle Medicine Institute (LMI) and discovered the positive impact it can have on their lives.

CHIP is an established lifestyle intervention program backed by many years of medical data and scientific research. To date, 25 peer-reviewed papers have examined the effectiveness of CHIP with affirmative results published in medical and health journals internationally, including the prestigious British Medical Journal and the American Journal of Cardiology.

“We know that CHIP helps people lose weight, lower their cholesterol and blood pressure, and reverse their diabetes,” says Dr. Wayne Dysinger, medical director of LMI based at Loma Linda University. “Although there are many angles and different facets to each published paper, what we learn consistently is that CHIP works.”

It’s not only physical health improvements—other documented research2 reveals CHIP has a positive impact on sleep hygiene, stress disorders, depression, and mental health.

CHIP is a 30-day lifestyle intervention program with an emphasis on plant-based eating, or foods “as grown,” with a reduction in processed and animal-based foods. Developed by Hans Diehl more than 25 years ago, CHIP (originally known as the Coronary Health Improvement Program) grew out of the consistently impressive results he observed during his work in the area of lifestyle medicine. Diehl had a vision for a unique health ministry, to help individuals choose a healthful lifestyle with “its elegant simplicity and [develop a] newfound zest for living.”3

LMI (the custodian of CHIP) was acquired by the South Pacific Division in 2011, and with assistance from Sanitarium, CHIP was consequently revised and expanded to reflect its new name and encompass additional health and lifestyle concepts including behavioral psychology, physical activity, stress resilience, value/self-worth, and forgiveness.

At the commencement of the program, participants complete standard health measures (known as biometrics), which are tracked throughout the 30 days. CHIP participants attend a series of 12 to 18 sessions in a supportive group environment, helping to facilitate the lifestyle changes. These sessions include contemporary video presentations by Diehl, Darren Morton, and Andrea Avery, experts in the field of lifestyle medicine. Together with group discussion, cooking demonstrations, and health assessments, as well as resourced with workbooks detailing the science of CHIP, participants are given an opportunity for change.

Dysinger believes the success of CHIP lies in the environment in which it’s delivered. “The beauty of CHIP is that it occurs in the community where the participant lives. This allows them to develop new patterns of shopping in their home grocery stores, exercise regimes in their neighborhoods, and new friends and support systems who are as excited about the lifestyle changes as they are.”

The widespread take-up of CHIP by more than 3,000 residents of Rockford, Illinois, United States, in 2000 resulted in one of the most significant impacts of the intervention program in its 25-year history.4 More than 25 restaurants altered their menus to include at least five CHIP healthy-menu options, and local supermarkets were induced to increase their offering of fresh fruit and vegetables. These are significant health shifts at a societal level and further reinforce the power of CHIP to change lives.

Many of the CHIP community programs have been conducted in local churches. This proactively supports the General Conference (GC) initiative of establishing local churches as “centers for health, hope, and healing.” GC president Ted Wilson has described CHIP as “one of those very innovative opportunities to relate the church to the community—and on a sustainable basis.”5

In recent years CHIP pilot programs have been conducted in the Pacific Islands with data revealing very positive results and testimonials from participants and facilitators. Further work is currently being done at a nongovernment organization (NGO) level to bring CHIP to developing nations where the incidence of noncommunicable diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, now, for the first time in history, surpasses infectious diseases.

Carol Boehm was the facilitator for the inaugural CHIP program in the Solomon Islands during 2012. She launched the pilot program for a group of 44 people, including the general secretary of health, doctors, nurses, and other top-level health professionals. Significant drops in blood pressure, weight, blood glucose, and cholesterol were observed, as well as other health improvements, such as better sleep, feeling clear-minded, better energy levels, fewer headaches, and less depression. Boehm feels the results were “nothing short of miraculous.” The country’s prime minister said that the CHIP program should be “nationalized.”

Health and Healing Into the Future

The SPD, through institutions such as Sanitarium, Vitality Works, Sanctuary, and CHIP, has worked for more than a century in fulfilling its vision to share health, hope, and happiness with the community. Its goal is to continue to share comprehensive, wholistic health interventions through new services that will radically transform lives—and that is hope worth sharing. 


To learn more about these services, visit www.chiphealth.com, www.sanctuary.sanitarium.com.au, www.vitalityworks.com.au, and www.sanitarium.com.au.

  1. Ellen G. White, The Health Food Ministry (Washington, D.C.: Ellen G. White Publications, 1970), pp. 12, 15, 89, 56.
  2. R. M. Merrill, S. G. Aldana, R. L. Greenlaw, and H. A. Diehl, “The Coronary Health Improvement Projects Impact on Lowering Eating, Sleep, Stress, and Depressive Disorders,” American Journal of Health Education 39, no. 6 (2008): 337-344; R. M. Merrill, P. Taylor, and S. G. Aldana, “Coronary Health Improvement Project (CHIP) Is Associated With Improved Nutrient Intake and Decreased Depression,” Nutrition 24, no. 4 (2008): 314-321; C. L. Thieszen et al., “The Coronary Health Improvement Project (CHIP) for Lowering Weight and Improving Psychosocial Health,” Psychological Reports 109, no. 1 (2011): 338-352.
  3. Lifestyle Medicine Institute, Complete Health Improvement Program: Learn More (Loma Linda: Lifestyle Medicine Institute, 2013), p. 1.
  4. www.chiphealth.com/About-CHIP/History.
  5. http://vimeo.com/89267938 “CHIP Testimonials.”
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