Global Health initiative exceeds goal of reaching 1 million children

November 13, 2020 | ATLANTA


Dan Curran for Global Ministries


Mary Lou Greenwood Boice Director of Communications, Global Ministries


Working to positively impact the lives of women and children around the world, Abundant Health, The United Methodist Church’s global health initiative, has achieved and exceeded its goal of reaching 1 million children with lifesaving interventions by 2020. According to data reports, the United Methodist contribution to the global effort to end preventable deaths of newborns, children and adolescents reached 1,075,732 children as of October 2020.

Naomi Lebbie, a young woman from Southern Province, Sierra Leone, became a hardworking petty trader although her hope had been to be a teacher. Naomi married young and her first two babies died – one at the hands of a traditional birth attendant and the second she miscarried. It was during her third pregnancy that an outreach team from the Jaiama Health Center, a United Methodist facility focusing on maternal, newborn and child health, visited her village. She enrolled in its prenatal program and, when she developed complications, did not hesitate to stay there for care. A few weeks later, Naomi gave birth to a healthy son. “My dream of becoming a mother has come to reality,” she said.

Since the launch of the Abundant Health Initiative in 2017, United Methodist Global Ministries has invested over $26 million in 50 countries and mobilized millions in partner in-kind contributions, reaching over 1 million children and adolescents with health interventions in thousands of communities across Asia, Africa, North America and Central America. Data from around the world, collected monthly and evaluated each quarter, enables the Global Health unit to provide more comprehensive interventions in response to current challenges.

The United Methodist Church recognizes that every child is filled with promise and potential. Its mission to protect children from preventable causes of death and disease aligns with global efforts. As a sign of its commitment, Global Ministries joined the United Nations-sponsored Every Woman Every Child initiative originally designed to reach 16 million children by 2020. This initiative is supported by government, private sector, nonprofit and faith-based organizations who are committed to realizing healthier, more productive futures for children, their families and communities across the world.

Abundant Health focuses on five core areas impacting the health of children throughout the world: ensure safe births, address nutritional challenges, promote breastfeeding, advance prevention and treatment of childhood diseases and promote children’s health and wholeness.

“As United Methodists, we find care and concern for children rooted in our Social Principles, where we talk about putting children and their families first,” said Roland Fernandes, general secretary (chief executive) of United Methodist Global Ministries, the worldwide mission and development agency of the denomination. “Back in 2016, the General Conference affirmed that children have the right to food, shelter, clothing, health care and emotional well-being, as do adults, and these rights are theirs regardless of actions or inactions of their parents or guardians.

“Through Abundant Health, we are promoting the physical, spiritual, mental and emotional health of children worldwide,” Fernandes continued. “The initiative’s name is derived from the Gospel of John 10:10: ‘I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.’ We are committed to living into our promise to children by imagining abundant health for every child in every place.”

“We go to places where there is no one else, where no one else wants to go,” Interim Global Health team lead and program manager for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health,” Kathleen Griffith said. “When I think of the impact of Abundant Health, I think of the women like Naomi who had a successful pregnancy, people who walk three hours to get to a clinic and the mothers who work so hard to bring their children for immunizations.”

She added, “What is inspiring to me about the Abundant Health Initiative is that so many more children are now more likely to survive their fifth birthday; more children are thriving through healthy meals, substance-use prevention and positive youth development programs. Our support has improved the quality of care for mothers and babies in some of the most challenged places in the world.

“Through the initiative, we help people learn that in order for a child to be healthy, it takes more than prescriptions, more than staff in a hospital,” Griffith said. ‘It takes a holistic community response.”

“Our assistance to improve provider capacity and strengthen health systems has helped revitalize UMC mission hospitals and clinics in many low-income countries,” noted Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton, chair of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR). “Clearly, when we harness our efforts across the global UMC network, we make enormous progress toward our shared goals. Our continued success depends on unwavering commitment to effective, equitable and sustainable child health service delivery strategies so that children not only survive but also thrive as they grow into their adult life.”

Approved at the 2016 UMC General Conference, the initiative builds on the success of Imagine No Malaria, the United Methodist health initiative that significantly reduced the number of childhood deaths caused by malaria.

According to Global Ministries’ leaders, the motivation to launch the Abundant Health Initiative emerged in part from an extensive survey of people in 59 countries. Data showed that the top global health challenges are maternal and child health, water and sanitation, hunger and nutrition, and access to health care.

Global Ministries leaders are available upon request for interviews about Abundant Health.

Donations to support the program are being accepted at


About the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church

Global Ministries is the worldwide mission and development agency of The United Methodist Church. Founded in 1819, Global Ministries today supports more than 300 missionaries in over 70 countries, including the United States. It has personnel, projects, and partners in 115 countries. Learn more about Global Ministries by visiting or by following and