Wellness Survey Report – First Installment of Findings

J. Patrick Kelly Features

The report below is submitted for the Province’s Wellness Committee by its chairperson.

The members of the wellness committee want to once again thank the friars for their participation in the recently-conducted province-wide wellness survey. With the support and encouragement of Provincial Minister John O’Connor, 311 (out of approximately 375) friars returned surveys (with only one that was unusable).

When we consider the men at the Ringwood, Butler, St. Petersburg and 103 Arch Street friaries who may have been unable to complete their survey, this is an outstanding response. It speaks well of our maturity regarding concerns for wellness issues.

Our purpose as a committee was to solicit data that would direct the work of our committee and let us know where emphases will be needed in our endeavors. This survey has gone a long way in giving us the necessary data to do precisely that.

At a recent (teleconference) meeting, committee members began to review and evaluate the responses, both within the age groupings and as a whole. We — happily—discovered some very strong indications that the friars are positively and proactively involved in their health assessment and management. In other areas, we have concerns. Therefore, we decided that we would report back to you a portion at a time so as not to overwhelm (or bore) you with too many data at once.

As we stated in the cover letter that accompanied the survey, we relied on the honesty (having guaranteed anonymity) of the friars as they completed the survey. We are happy to say that this first report conveys some of the very positive data.

Most Friars Report Good Health
Across the age groups, 83% of the friars reported good to excellent overall health with only five friars rating their health as poor. Naturally, more of the “younger” friars (relatively speaking) selected “excellent” while those more aged among us with more health issues rated “good” or lower. It seems that there is an overall upbeat attitude on the part of the friars-at-large concerning their general health.

Of those reporting, 90% had regular doctors/primary care physicians, with 246 guys having had an annual physical exam within the past year, with an additional 48 within three years. A total of 94% of the friars having had physicals and, given all we read and hear in the secular press about their importance, that augers well for catching problems early when it is more often easier to fix or manage health issues.

Given the fact that neither the Provincial health plan nor most other health plans in which the friars participate provide dental insurance (with the often-mandated annual check up), 80% of the responding Friars noted that they have an annual dental exam. Not only to protect our winning smiles, our dental health is intimately connected to overall health and wellbeing.

Preventative Tests and Immunization Recommended
The survey told us that 182 friars said they have had a colonoscopy. As we are told (because there aren’t pain receptors in the colon), it’s really the primary way our physician can tell for sure if we have polyps (sometime precursors to a cancerous condition) or other abnormalities. We encourage friars, especially those over 50, to discuss with their health-care provider the wisdom of when to have a colonoscopy (and/or discuss other less invasive methods for early detection of colorectal cancer [such as fecal occult blood testing]).

Since it is s recommended that men over 50 should seek their doctor’s advice regarding the advisability for both DRE/PSA (prostate antigen) testing via blood work, 78% replied that they have had their blood tested. Physicians may be doing the DRE testing at an earlier age and deferring the PSA until the friar is over 50. There appears to be some controversy about recommendations and the treatment of prostate cancer in general.

Our study also told us that 70% — or 218 of the 310 — of the friars stated they had had an annual flu shot/pneumonia shot. This is a positive response, with 73% of the friars over 60 having had the pneumonia injection. If you are over 65 and have not had at least one pneumonia shot within the last five years, it is recommended that you mention this to your primary care provider.

The “controversy” about the pneumonia shot is that some physicians say that it need only be repeated if there is indication the friar is “at risk,” and others say to repeat it every five or 10 years. Again, as proactive participants in your own health-care, we recommend you discuss this with your physician during your annual physical exam.

Only 13 of the 310 friars indicated that they still smoke. We encourage the few friars who continue to do so to consult their health-care provider to discuss ways — of which now there are many — to stop smoking. We will not insult the remaining smokers by reiterating all they already know about how dangerous it is to their health. It is an addiction — an habitual manner of acting — that can now, as with all addictions, be successfully addressed.

A quick review of the data to be reported upon indicates that future articles will deal with: food/nutrition, alcohol abuse/addiction(s), stress and relaxation/fun, frequency of specific illnesses, emotional and/or spiritual well-being (e.g., getting psychological help, having a spiritual director, retreat, daily prayer, etc.). As a reminder, wellness — as a concept — includes physical, emotional/mental and spiritual health (see Sr. Vicki Masterpaul’s article in the Sept. 6 issue of this newsletter) and it was with this definition in mind that we conducted the survey.

We hope the above report is encouraging, a compliment and that you take pleasure in these reported results. Look for more information in future issues of HNP Today.

 Fr. Jim is director of FrancisCare: A Counseling Service, Inc., in Elmwood Park, N.J.