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Canadian Latter-day Saints Join With Others in Celebrating World Health Day

Did you know that “healthy societies rely on well-functioning ecosystems to provide clean air, fresh water, medicines and food security[?] These help to limit disease and stabilize the climate” (World Health Organization, “Fast Facts on Climate and Health”). With this in mind, the focus of United Nations’ World Health Day on April 7, 2022, is “our planet, our health.”

Two Canadian members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were invited to share their thoughts about World Health Day. Evelyn Thompson-Smith and Dr. Chris Miller are using their unique talents and abilities to explore the intersection between healthy individuals and sustainable societies.

I. World Health Day: Our Planet, Our Health

“Our planet, our health,” the theme of World Health Day 2022, is a call to understand the connection between our own health and the health of our planet. It is a call to consider how we might reimagine a healthier tomorrow, both for humans and the planet.

Evelyn Thompson-Smith, a Latter-day Saint from Red Deer, Alberta, is the director of strategic capital planning for the central zone of Alberta Health Services. Her work involves health-care infrastructure planning and development to ensure safe health-care environments. Thompson-Smith recognizes that the environment, including nature, can affect and improve mental health. She explained that “preserving the natural environment is critical to ensure we can reduce anxiety and improve health outcomes across a wide spectrum.”

Taking care of the planet is just one way to take care of each other. Thompson-Smith emphasized that “as we choose to prioritize our environment, we have hope for better outcomes for ourselves, our brothers and sisters, as well as our children and generations who will follow us.”

President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “As beneficiaries of the divine Creation, what shall we do? We should care for the earth, be wise stewards over it, and preserve it for future generations. And we are to love and care for one another” (“The Creation,” April 2000 general conference).

II. Unique Perspectives: Latter-day Saint Teachings on Health

Dr. Chris Miller, a Latter-day Saint from Vancouver, British Columbia, looks to President Nelson, who is 97 and in excellent health, as a “primary example of how a healthy lifestyle can impact our physical and mental health on this planet.” Miller knows that “we have only one planet and one body. We need to take care of them both.”

“Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are known for their healthy lifestyles. A health plan for the Church was first written down in 1833 by President Joseph Smith, and he presented it to early members specifically as a revelation from God. Today, Latter-day Saints refer to these health guidelines as ‘the Word of Wisdom’ (Doctrine and Covenants 89)” (“Health Practices,”

During his youth, Miller held fast to the Latter-day Saint teachings on health, which include eating healthy and abstaining from smoking and drinking alcohol. “Almost everyone I knew in school smoked tobacco and saw no reasons for not smoking. I was always challenged [by others] as to why I would never smoke,” said Miller. For him, these religious health practices are evidence of God’s “great love for us and this planet.”

Miller started his career as a respiratory therapist and eventually obtained a PhD in experimental medicine. He currently studies the use of nitric oxide as a non-antibiotic antimicrobial treatment. The team he works with has developed a new treatment for COVID-19. From his research during the pandemic, Miller noted that “individuals with comorbidities like obesity and smoking are especially vulnerable. Simply living a healthy lifestyle significantly reduced [one’s] risk of dying from a COVID-19 infection.”

III. Individual Actions: Building a Healthier World

The World Health Organization notes that “while the COVID-19 pandemic showed us the healing power of science, it also highlighted the inequities in our world” (“World Health Day 2022”). Part of building a healthier world involves addressing these inequities.

Latter-day Saint scripture teaches that Jesus Christ “called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind … and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). This teaching has resonated with Thompson-Smith during her career in health care. She understands that “social determinants are critical for improved health outcomes” and that living with one heart and one mind by helping each other is “how we will optimize health.”

Although not everyone will have opportunities like Thompson-Smith to enact change on a policy or at a societal level, individual actions that promote well-being can make a difference. Eating healthy, incorporating activity and exercise into daily schedules, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule and building a supportive social network are just a few examples.

Speaking of individual commitment to global health and wellness, Thompson-Smith said, “When we are useful, planting gardens, participating in community cleanup work and serving in our community, we are part of the solution for our earth. There is no Planet B.”

Contributed by Janine Thompson

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