Health Education

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The home and school, both public and private, continue to be the primary agents for health education among Mennonites. Mennonite secondary schools and colleges include in their curricula courses which promote health education and health care, not only in their physical education programs, but also in physiology and psychology. In North America several colleges include premedical training programs which qualify graduates to enter schools of medicine or dentistry. Several Mennonite colleges likewise have schools of nursing, while other schools of nursing are hospital-related rather than college-related. In addition to Mennonite educational institutions, however, Mennonite hospitals and clinics, and mental health centers, carry on significant programs of health education for the benefit of the public and the church, including health forums, lectures, and seminars covering a wide variety of health issues. In addition, the Mennonite Mental Health Services (Mennonite Health Services since 1988) has a Committee on Awareness and Education which seeks to promote mental health awareness and programs in local congregations.

Mennonites around the world, as a dimension of medical missions, Mennonite Central Committee relief and development ministries or through the agencies of national churches, have made health education an integral part of compassionate ministry to the total needs of people, whether in Europe, North or South America, Asia, or Africa.

In North America, Mennonite Mutual Aid of Goshen, Ind., in the 1970s began developing a special emphasis on the promotion of health awareness in local congregations. In 1975 it began distributing The Tool Kit, a newsletter which included many items promoting physical health. Then it published a series of brochures to promote "Wellness," a concept which sought to integrate the spiritual, mental, relational, vocational, physical, psychological, environmental, and social dimensions of health. In 1980 it sponsored a study program for local congregations entitled, "A life of wholeness." This was followed in 1983 by the appointment of a "wellness director" who gave initiative to the training of congregational leaders to promote health education in the local churches. By the end of 1987 more than 500 leaders had been trained and were being served by a regular newsletter called Well now, begun in 1985. The "Wellness program," which by the end of 1987, had affected several hundred local congregations, expanded to include children as well as adults. The larger program includes not only workshops and seminars, but also brochures, newsletters, and such publications as Medical ethics, human choices: a Christian perspective (Scottdale, 1988). One of the factors leading to this emphasis on wellness and health education has been the rising cost of health care and the involvement of Mennonite Mutual Aid in sharing health care financial aid (mutual aid; insurance).

The Mennonite Health Association (MHA) continues to promote health education through its various constituent agencies, e.g., the Mennonite Chaplains Association, the Mennonite Nurses Association, the Mennonite Medical Association, the Inter-Mennonite Council on Aging, the Mennonite Council for Hospitals, Mennonite Mental Health Services (Mennonite Health Services), Mennonite Developmental Disability Services, Mennonite Child Care Services, MHA's Inter-Mennonite Personnel Services, and particularly MHA's Council on Congregational Health Concerns. This council encourages every congregation to provide for its own health concerns council. It has published Congregational health ministries handbook: a resource for Mennonite congregations, edited by Edwin F. Rempel (1987), which sketches a theology of health care, lists and describes the various constituent agencies represented in the Mennonite Health Association, and provides bibliographical information as well as a listing of Mennonite Health care agencies which can serve local congregations in their health care needs.

The Mennonite Medical Messenger is published quarterly by the Mennonite Medical Association and serves also the Mennonite Health Association as well as the Mennonite Nurses Association. It has a circulation of around 2,000. This organ serves primarily the members of these organizations, yet through them seeks to promote Christian understandings of illness and health and ethical standards in the practice of health care and delivery. Special attention is given to the promotion of transcultural experience in the practice of medicine. The Mennonite Medical Association for many years has placed medical students and supported them financially in settings which facilitate transcultural learning. In recent years it has cooperated in a medical component of the China Educational Exchange Program.

Together with the Institute of Mennonite Studies of the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries, agencies of the Mennonite Health Association sponsored a major interdisciplinary seminar on shalom, health, and healing (June, 1988).

The Mennonite Medical Association, including more than 500 Mennonite physicians and dentists meet in convention annually, generally with the Mennonite Nurses Association, to study and discuss health care issues including bioethical dilemmas, the costs of health care, wholistic approaches to medicine, and coping with conflict and change.

This association has also sponsored meetings of Mennonite physicians from around the world in conjunction with Mennonite World Conference sessions. One of its members, Sidney Kreider, has served with the World Health Organization (WHO) based in Geneva, Switzerland. It is also notable that Eric Ram, for several years the Director of the Christian Medical Commission (World Council of Churches) based in Geneva, Switzerland, is the product of Mennonite Medical Mission work in central India.

Author(s) Erland Waltner
Date Published 1989

Cite This Article

MLA style

Waltner, Erland. "Health Education." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1989. Web. 25 Sep 2018.

APA style

Waltner, Erland. (1989). Health Education. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 25 September 2018, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, pp. 365-366. All rights reserved.

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