Jan Barker did everything right.  As described by her sister Laurie, she was a fitness freak.  Jan exercised regularly, didn’t smoke, rarely drank, and ate lots of fruits and vegetables. In October of 2007 Jan was diagnosed with colon cancer.  She died two months later, leaving behind a grieving husband, son, siblings, parents and many friends.  She was 55 years old.

Your first thought might be  – why bother to exercise and eat right – it didn’t help her.  Let me rephrase, Jan Barker did ALMOST everything right.  Jan never had a preventative screening in her life, no mammograms, pap smears, regular check-ups.  She didn’t have a colonoscopy even though she was over 50 and had a family history of colon cancer.

To often companies and individuals focus on the big two – exercise and eating right. Picture a three-legged stool, you need all three legs for it to work.  Preventative screenings are the first step in early intervention to prevent or control major consequences down the road.  Combined with exercise and a healthy diet, preventative screenings can go a long way to impede illness or disease.

After Jan was diagnosed with cancer her sister Laurie made an appointment for a colonoscopy. You might respond, of course that was the sensible thing to do.  But I think it was more than that.  Laurie did not hesitate as she was used to getting preventative screenings.  Why? Laurie worked for a company that offered preventative screenings at the work site.  For a long time Laurie worked for Progressive Insurance. While she worked there she took advantage of getting mammograms, pap smears, and her cholesterol checked all without leaving the building.  Because her employer made it so convenient, Laurie got in the habit of getting preventative screenings.

It would be great if all companies had workplace health clinics. Unfortunately it may not be feasible for smaller organizations to offer on site screenings.  But it is possible for all companies to encourage employees or offer incentives for employees to have annual exams and get preventable screenings.  Under the Affordable Care Act many preventative screenings are covered without having to pay a copayment.

A few hours after Jan passed away, Laurie received the results from her colonoscopy.  Three pre cancerous polyps had been removed. Laurie and her doctor will closely monitor the situation.  Laurie has redoubled her efforts to exercise regularly and eat right. Laurie IS doing everything right.  Chances are good Laurie will be around for many years to come, thanks in part to the habit of regular screenings her employer helped her to establish.

Valorie Bender