London hospitals respond to challenge by Grand River Hospital

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Like the plumber’s house with the dripping faucets, sometimes health-care professionals don’t give their own health care priority.Occupational health and safety services at St. Joseph’s Health Care, London and London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) jointly aim to address this by encouraging female staff, life partners and volunteers aged 50 and older to go for breast screening.

Dubbed the London Hospital Staff Breast Health Initiative, the idea for this workplace wellness program emerged from a challenge issued by Jane Stacey at the Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ontario. Using the Grand River staff program as a template, the London hospitals program was launched in October to coincide with Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“Eighty-one per cent, or 11,286 of our hospitals’ combined workforce is female,” notes Rose Kowalczyk, employee health nurse, St. Joseph’s occupational health and safety services.

“Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer and second most common cancer death in women. One in nine women will develop breast cancer, so a potential 1,254 female staff at London’s hospitals could develop breast cancer during their lifetime.”

Adds Emily Mellick, team leader for LHSC occupational health and safety services, “About 80 per cent of breast cancers are diagnosed in women age 50 and older. London’s hospitals have 3,060 female staff members who are 50 years of age or older. Implementing a staff breast cancer screening initiative also supports the commitment of London’s hospitals to improve health.”

Research shows that if 70 per cent of the eligible population participates in organized screening (such as the Ontario Breast Screening Program), breast cancer mortality can be reduced by up to 40 per cent.

Kowalczyk and Mellick plan to sweeten the pot for eligible women by offering incentive gifts to those who participate in the screening.