CREATION Health Foundations
“Love is the goal of life and the essence of health.”
- By Des Cummings Jr., Ph.D.
Origin and history
The eight principles of CREATION Health are derived from the seven days of Creation in the book of Genesis, and they form the basis of the Adventist health message and lifestyle. CREATION Health is a contemporary expression of health ministry concepts that come from the early days of the Seventh-day Adventist movement in the 19th century. These eight principles were developed in the writings of the founders of the Adventist Health System dating back to 1866. Drawing from those original writings, our model of health is based on God’s formation of a perfect world as defined in Genesis 1 and 2, while our model of healing arises from the healing ministry of Jesus Christ to a broken world as recorded in the Gospels. Both models encompass the whole person—body, mind, and spirit.
The Adventist commitment to health was expressed in the official action that established the system: “Resolved, That we acknowledge the health reform . . . as part of the work of God . . . and that we pledge ourselves to live in accordance with these principles, and that we will use our best endeavors to impress their importance upon others.”1 This focus on health resulted in two ground-breaking initiatives in 1866: (1) the establishment of the Western Health Reform Institute (later renamed the Battle Creek Hospital and Sanitarium), and (2) the creation of Health Reformer magazine (later renamed Good Health ). The fundraising prospectus for Health Reformer magazine espoused the following vision: “Such a journal . . . can, without exaggeration, be made one of the most interesting and useful health journals in the world.”2
Motivated by the mission of advancing a Bible-based lifestyle, the Adventist movement became a leading force in reforming health care and lifestyle around the world in the 19th century. The leaders founded a new type of institution known as a sanitarium, a place for people to get well and stay well. It stood in stark contrast to the sanatoriums of that era, built for tuberculosis patients and known as places to go and die. Battle Creek Sanitarium in particular was the epicenter for the Adventist health message. It became internationally known for combining healing therapies with healthy lifestyle solutions. In the span of the next four decades, Adventists established more than 75 sanitariums around the world.3 In addition, the Adventists became a leading force in the clean living movement of the Progressive Era that reformed public health practices in the late 1800s.4
By the mid-20th century, the health benefits of the Adventist lifestyle were becoming apparent to the world at large. Research organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, began to notice the effects on generations of individuals who had adopted these health principles. In 1973, the National Cancer Institute funded research comparing Adventists to the average Californian and demonstrated the benefits of smoke-free living as well as the danger of cigarettes. NIH has funded ongoing research on the Adventist lifestyle over the past 50 years.
The longitudinal research has made a significant contribution to the present focus of American society on healthy living. The Adventist Health Studies (1974–1988 and 2002–2007), a NIH-funded longitudinal study of the health behaviors of 96,469 Adventists,5 continues to be a rich database for lifestyle research. Researchers took special interest in the health status of the Adventist population who adopt a vegetarian diet. Dozens of peer-reviewed articles have reported findings that continue to highlight the benefits of the Adventist lifestyle. In the past decade these findings have been featured in the popular press,6 revealing to a worldwide audience that following a healthy lifestyle can reduce life-threatening diseases (heart, cancer, diabetes) and add an average of eleven years of life expectancy.
CREATION Health origin and expression
In 1992, the Disney Development Corporation launched the planning process for establishing the new city of Celebration. From more than ten leading health systems invited to submit a proposal detailing their vision, Florida Hospital’s vision, “To create the healthiest city in America based on the healthiest lifestyle in America,” was chosen, in part, because of the Disney health consultant’s familiarity with Adventist lifestyle research. Dr. Ken Pelletier’s recommendation of the Florida Hospital proposal was based on three factors: (1) Adventists wrote the book on modern health and wellness; (2) NIH-funded research had demonstrated the longer, healthier life produced by the Adventist lifestyle; and (3) the studies replicated in Adventist populations around the world had shown the same beneficial effects.7
A Florida Hospital design team was commissioned to work with the Disney Imagineers to implement this vision. The team identified the health crisis of chronic lifestyle diseases in society and drafted the eight principles of CREATION Health as a framework for responding to the crisis. These principles would build a foundation of good health as well as cutting-edge medicine in Celebration.
One of the key design drivers for the hospital of the future was that it become a 21st-century demonstration of the Adventist health message8 based on the eight principles. This philosophy was “archithemed” into the buildings and emphasized in the campus’s central icon, a 135-foot octagonal tower. The octagonal theme, echoing the eight health principles, is also reflected in the design of the chapel and the emergency department. The message of CREATION Health is expressed throughout the buildings.
The Celebration Health facility is unique among health care institutions because it is designed to establish a new health covenant: “To be with you in sickness and in health.” This “whole person, whole life” commitment is expressed in the integration of a state-of- the-art fitness center and spa, health education center, spiritual life center, healthy dining facilities, health assessment center, and lifestyle medicine services (weight management, physical therapy, cardio-pulmonary rehabilitation, and sports performance).
Leading health care in the 21st century
The demonstrated advantages of CREATION Health’s eight principles position Adventist Health System to be a leading force in the future of health reform. Research results in the Adventist Health Studies and many other research projects point to the relevance and usefulness of CREATION Health. When the nation is facing a health crisis driven by lifestyle diseases, CREATION Health provides a possible solution that we are privileged to share.
Based on this understanding, Adventist Health System designated CREATION Health as the primary focus for community health improvement. Don Jernigan, former President and CEO, expanded the strategic scope in “Vision 2020”: “It is our hope that over time CREATION Health will not just impact our immediate patients, but make a difference outside of our hospitals’ walls so that entire communities can begin experiencing the life God intended for them.”
To implement this vision, we need to (1) be fully aware of the biblical basis of the eight CREATION Health principles and (2) focus on developing CREATION Health applications for the hospital system. These applications must be true to the Genesis story and relevant to health care reform, as well as scientifically sound.
The worldview of Adventist Health System leadership is defined by the Bible. In the realm of health care, the Bible provides our foundational operating concepts, which we have expressed in contemporary form in the eight principles of CREATION Health. The best response to pain and brokenness in the world is to accept the mission presented by Jesus, to bring abundant life to all (John 10:10) and serve the needs of humanity. The hospital system exists to fulfill this healing ministry of Christ.
- “Fourth Annual Session of General Conference,” The Review and Herald, May 22, 1866.
- Health Reformer Prospectus, June 12, 1866.
- Gary Land, Historical Dictionary of the Seventh-day Adventists (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), 145.
- See, for example, the prominent role of Adventist health in Ruth C. Engs, Clean Living Movements: American Cycles of Health Reform (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2000).
- Orlich, Michael J., Pramil N. Singh, Joan Sabaté, Karen Jaceldo-Siegl, Jing Fan, Synnove Knutsen, W. Lawrence
Beeson, and Gary E. Fraser. "Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in Adventist Health Study 2." JAMA
Internal Medicine 173, no. 13 (2013): 1230-1238. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6473.
- See articles in the popular press listed under “Our Story | Further Reading” at http://creationhealth.com/ Our-Story.
- Des Cummings and Monica Reed, Eight Secrets of a Healthy 100 (Maitland, FL: Florida Hospital Publishing, 2012), 18.
- Lars Houmann, from Celebration business plan.