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Free health screenings help messengers see health risks

GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)–Nearly 1,500 messengers attending the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in Greensboro, N.C., took advantage of a free health screening provided by GuideStone Financial Resources and LifeWay’s LeaderCare Ministry.

GuideStone partners with LifeWay to provide the free health screenings because of their concern for the health issues facing Southern Baptist ministers.

The screening, a $150 value, is provided each year, free of charge, to messengers attending the convention. The screening includes a blood pressure check, cholesterol check and blood sugar check, body mass index measurement as well as a bone density screening. New for 2006, a DXA bone density scan was provided to participants who exhibited certain risk factors for osteoporosis.

Individuals received a heart health report summarizing the results of their screenings. Doctors were available to interpret the results and make recommendations for improvement.

“We believe in a three-pronged approach to wellness,” said GuideStone President O.S. Hawkins. “GuideStone is doing our part by offering a variety of quality health plans; ministers must take responsibility for their own health by living a healthy lifestyle that includes good nutrition, exercise and regular health checkups; and finally, churches must do their part by providing their ministers and staff a benefits package that includes life and health coverage.”

Tamara Quintana, GuideStone employee wellness coordinator, said the health screenings are making a difference in the lives of Southern Baptists.

“For years, it has been about awareness,” she said. “People were coming through the Wellness Center totally unaware of their health risk factors. Now they’re coming in with knowledge. They’re telling us that they’re making changes, and they’re testing to see if those lifestyle changes are paying off.”

Bob Stewart, one of the volunteer physicians in the Wellness Center, agreed.

“People are coming back with positive stories,” he said. “That’s really good to hear.”

Kenny Moore, pastor of Davidson Street Baptist Church in Clinton, S.C., said he and his wife, Shelby, have one of those positive stories.

“We participate in the health screening every year,” he said. “We make it a competition. “She’s winning overall, but I had a better year this year.”

Moore reports that his cholesterol was down after losing some weight.

“We’ve started exercising and eating better, and it’s making a difference,” he said. “[The health screenings are] really a blessing. It keeps us on track because we know we’re going to see results each year –- and it saves us some money.”

Renee Scheidt, a vocational music evangelist and women’s ministry leader from China Grove, N.C., has also taken advantage of the free health screening several times.

“I go every year at the SBC,” she said. “It’s information that we all need to know to see if we need to follow up with our doctors on anything.”

Steven Wright, pastor of Bridgewater Church in Katy, Texas, said his Heart Health Report showed about what he expected. “I lost some weight a few years ago,” he said, “but I’ve let some of it creep back on. I’ve recently joined a health club because I know I need to get more exercise.”

“This free screening is awesome,” Wright said, adding that he preaches about health to his congregation. “I don’t just preach about the popular ills of society. I tell my people that Christians should be healthy, happy and holy.”

“But I do struggle with my weight,” Wright confessed. “Because of what we do, ministers often justify our poor nutrition and lack of exercise. I did for years. Because we’re doing Kingdom business, we think, ‘I deserve this.’ We somehow believe God will give us an extra measure of grace for those fries we’re eating.”

The doctors who volunteer in the wellness center agreed that poor weight management and lack of exercise are the biggest factors contributing to the health issues of pastors today.

“I’ve always been interested in the effects of exercise on emotional and physical health,” said one of the physicians, Chuck Hannaford.

Stewart said he believes 80 percent of health issues could be eliminated or reduced, and medical costs could be greatly reduced with proper weight management and exercise.

An executive summary report on the health screenings conducted at last year’s SBC backed up the doctors’ conclusions. The summary showed that more than 70 percent of the 1,472 participants who completed the screening in Nashville, Tenn., were at moderate to high risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). These results were consistent with previous years’ findings.

Coronary Heat Disease is a major cause of disease, disability and death in the United States. Below are the five most prevalent risk factors among Wellness Center participants in 2005, in order of prevalence, followed by the number affected and the percentage:

— High body weight, 1,113, 75.6 percent.

— High LDL cholesterol, 672, 47.1 percent.

— Low level of physical activity, 551, 39.2 percent.

— High total cholesterol, 570, 39.1 percent.

— Family history of heart disease, 492, 35.5 percent.

The 2005 executive summary report recommendations to the leadership of the SBC included providing more health promotion events at state conventions to increase health awareness and to encourage the leadership of SBC organizations to implement corporate health ministries to reduce health risks of employees and reduce health care costs of the organizations.

The report concluded that, “Investing in the health of Southern Baptist ministers and restoring wellness to their lives is one of the best investments you can make for Kingdom work. Someone wisely said that if we don’t take time for wellness, we will be forced to take time for illness.”

    About the Author

  • Wendy Ashley