Parish confronts ‘silent killer’

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Judy Crouch-Smolarek (Submitted photo)
Judy Crouch-Smolarek (Submitted photo)

Anita Draper
Catholic Herald staff

“Wellness is often defined as the healthy balance of physical, spiritual and psychological well-being,” said Judy Crouch-Smolarek, a retired registered nurse. “As Catholics, we can seek spiritual wellness and development, but we also need to seek appropriate physical and psychological wellness.”

A member of Holy Family, Woodruff, Crouch-Smolarek is the coordinator of a parish blood pressure screening program launched in August 2012.

Once a month after Sunday Mass, parishioners and guests can take advantage of the free blood pressure screenings. Nurses from the local healthcare provider, Ministry-Howard Young, staff the events for free, and parish volunteers help take care of the legwork.

On average, about 30 people are screened, although the number has climbed as high as 40 during tourist season.

The program stemmed from Crouch-Smolarek’s personal passion for disease prevention coupled with an interest in helping parishioners.

A few years back, she and two other nurses created an informal parish nurse committee to discuss health initiatives. The screenings were one of their ideas; the program has so far facilitated about 1,200 screenings, “which is great,” she added.

“I just really believe in the value of prevention,” she said. “Hypertension is a silent killer. People don’t know when they have hypertension unless they have blood pressure screenings done.”

Unchecked, hypertension can lead to stroke, heart disease, kidney disease and other complications, she explained. However, the condition is readily treatable.

“The key is finding it early,” she added.

A former public health nurse with a master’s degree and 40 years of experience, Crouch-Smolarek is accustomed to community outreach. She feels the parish program has been sustainable because of the level of commitment from a team of people, which includes parishioners and workers in the local healthcare system.

Other parishes could offer similar services, she said, with the help of dedicated healthcare workers from inside the parish and cooperation with outside providers.

May is High Blood Pressure Awareness Month – a good time to get the word out about screenings – but overall, she observed, “Wellness is ongoing. We don’t arrive at wellness …. We have to be consumers, if you will, and participate in our own wellness.

“God wants us to grow in our physical, psychological and spiritual health,” she added. “By participating in screenings such as this, we’re taking care of the bodies God gave us.”

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