Perhaps you have not yet met a Family Health Consultant (FHC), but soon you will. They are ordinary who specialize in helping others have a greater quality of life. They incorporate, in a practical way, ideas from the writings of Ellen G. White, Seventh-day Adventist Church co-founder and author. We talked with Tércio Marques, publishing ministries director for the Adventist Church in South America, who explained how this project works and the results seen so far.
What is the Family Health Consultants (FHC) project? When did it start?
The Family Health Consultants program is, first, a ministry and second, a service to reprogram people’s lifestyle. The first glimpse of this program came about in the United States several years ago. Here, in South America, the program was redesigned and new facets were added, becoming what it is today. In 2014, a pilot project began in the south of the Brazilian state of Bahia and on seeing the great potential and not wanting anything to go wrong, the South American Division took on the overall coordination. After two years, having tested and proven its significance, the program was officially launched at the beginning of March 2016 with the training of 70 people in Cotia, in the Greater São Paulo.
What is the relationship of this project with the Publishing Ministry and the activity of colporteurs?
Today, the FHC program is directed by the Publishing Ministries and the Health Ministries of the Adventist Church in South America. Medical-missionary work was always seen in the Church as a volunteer service carried out for a period of time by some people. Those people did not manage to support themselves with this ministry. For this reason, they would carry it out occasionally and only when possible.
In addition, there was also the need of written orientation to help these people implement a change in their lifestyle. This was the reason why, almost naturally, the idea emerged of using the denominational structure already in existence (literature evangelism) so people could help their patients more effectively and, at the same time, have a way to support themselves with the sales of books that our colporteurs distribute. However, it is important to highlight that the books are one of the tools that the FHC uses to achieve its goals, because the focus is not on the sale. Therefore, consultants are considered specialized colporteurs, making use of an existing structure and being recognized by the Church as self-supporting workers. They enjoy the inherent benefits of this category.
What stands out in this project, in relation with previous community health projects?
It is important to point out that only health professional can participate (nurses, nutritionists, psychologists, physical therapists, etc.). We prioritize people who are able to provide effective help. Besides, they take part in an immersion program to know the philosophy and the use of the tools exclusive to this program.
Also, it is important to highlight that Family Health Consultants carry out an individualized one-hour consultation with each patient. This care consists of an assessment of their lifestyle making use of biometric equipment to evaluate like blood glucose, body fat, visceral fat, bioimpedance, among others, and a full collection of lifestyle habits. On finding out the vulnerabilities and critical areas, they provide guidelines and help with a reprogramming of lifestyle habits. FHC members carry out a minimum 90-day follow-up with each patient to certify and make possible a change in their lifestyle. Mostly, they dedicate their time exclusively to this ministry.
What are the goals for this project? How many consultants are working today in South America? And how does the training work?
We are in no hurry to grow because we want to be sure that all the participants in FHC are fit to work in this ministry. With just over a year of official activity, we have already more than 200 working in South America. Many professionals are coming to us to serve as consultants. The Publishing and Health Ministries from conferences are the ones that recruit and select future consultants. We think that in two years we will have a group of one thousand people involved in this area.
What is the conceptual basis for this project? I imagine you are working with the concept of medical missionary work?
Exactly, our basis is the revelation about the medical missionary work. It is a service of orientation and support for a change in lifestyle. The program is focused in four areas that are: diet, lifestyle and habits, mental and spiritual health. We have physicians that give technical support to the FHCs so that everything is carried out in a professional way.
Can you talk briefly about some of the results achieved so far?
The results are amazing in every aspect. Participants in FHC are loving the work and feeling professionally, financially, and spiritually fulfilled. Visited patients are changing their lifestyle, losing weight, lowering cholesterol levels, controlling depression and stress, and having more quality of life. We have several patients who have been baptized in the Adventist Church and others participating in small groups.