Joseph Bates, pioneer of the Adventist church, began working for the cause of temperance as early as 1827. But the first united move to start a temperance program came in 1863 with the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist church.
In the April, 1877 issue of the Health Reformer, Ellen White penned the words, “True temperance teaches us to abstain entirely from that which is injurious, and to use judiciously only healthful and nutritious articles of food.”
Shortly after that the church organized the American Health and Temperance Association, which later became the International Health and Temperance Association. In 1893 the Adventist Medical Missionary and Benevolent Association was organized for overall guidance of the denomination’s medical work, including temperance, with J. H. Kellogg, M.D., as president.
In 1905 the Medical Missionary Department (or council) of the General Conference was organized. The temperance work, however, continued to be conducted primarily by the American Temperance Society, and later by a separate Temperance Department.
The Medical Missionary Department name was changed to the Medical Department at the General Conference and, in the late 1960s, the name was changed to Health Department. In 1980, when departments were being downsized, it was voted to combine the departments of Health and Temperance, and later in 1996 the North American Division recommended that the name Health and Temperance Department be changed to Adventist Health Ministries Department.
For more interesting dates in the development of Adventist Health Ministries, view the 2009 article in AdventistReview.