Culminating in this past year, American society has for decades been grappling with a mounting crisis in the delivery of health care. Costs of medical care have risen sharply, while access to the means to pay for that treatment has exceeded the reach of a growing number of Americans. This past year, the eyes of the nation, even the world, have been on Washington D.C. as legislators address, or rather not address, the issues at hand. A bill may yet be signed into law. However as the tragic spectacle has unfolded, the American people have perhaps never been more conscious of the dysfunction and deterioration of those institutions charged with advancing the common interest. Cynicism and disillusionment are rife. And the heart of any devoted servant of Baha’u’llah cannot remain unmoved at the sight of such affliction. But now, wherever expansion and consolidation of the Baha’i community gathers steam, Baha’is can also focus their energies on social action and efforts to contribute to the discourse of the broader society. With that said, I’d like to share some thoughts on what the Baha’i Faith has to offer efforts to promote the health and physical well-being of individuals and communities.
First, I think it is important to consider the general framework within which the Baha’i Faith approaches this and many other issues. If this general picture is set forth, the significance of specific features becomes clearer. It seems to me that this framework consists in the integration of spiritual and material development. Insights drawn from Divine Revelation must go hand-in-hand with those taken from modern science, inasmuch as the lives of soul and body are intertwined by their very nature. Two passages from the writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha illustrate this.
Praise be to God that thou hast two powers: one to undertake physical healing and the other spiritual healing. Matters related to man's spirit have a great effect on his bodily condition. For instance, thou shouldst impart gladness to thy patient, give him comfort and joy, and bring him to ecstasy and exultation. How often hath it occurred that this hath caused early recovery. Therefore, treat thou the sick with both powers.
Hence, both kinds of treatment [spiritual and material] should be followed; they are not contradictory. Therefore thou shouldst also accept physical remedies inasmuch as these too have come from the mercy and favour of God, Who hath revealed and made manifest medical science so that His servants may profit from this kind of treatment also.
In the writings of the Bab, Baha’u’llah and ‘Abdu’l-Baha, personal health is approached as an element of moral conduct. They forbade the smoking of tobacco and opium, the consumption of alcohol. Their promotion of cleanliness made them pioneers in public health and the prevention of diseases in 19th and early 20th century Iran. Baha’u’llah mandated that his followers consult with competent physicians in times of ill-health.
Resort ye, in times of sickness, to competent physicians; We have not set aside the use of material means, rather have We confirmed it through this Pen, which God hath made to be the Dawning-place of His shining and glorious Cause.
In his writings, ‘Abdu’l-Baha promotes a diet based on simple foods that maintain the natural equilibrium of the human body and a minimum of meat. He goes as far as to argue that, with the development of science, doctors and patients will one day be capable of treating illnesses through the regulation of diet. He observes that societies have by and large turned away from the simple foods for which the body was designed, and attributes this defect to humanity’s subservience to its lustful appetites. One common feature of these diverse remedies is that they all concern one’s day-to-day life, and involve personal discipline and spiritual focus. This is especially seen in ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s warning against ‘lustful appetites.’
The essay continues just a little below.
 Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, 130.1 pp.58-9
 Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, 133.2 pp.60
 Kitab-i-Aqdas 113 pp.60