Researchers say program helps lower health risks for truck drivers
In the study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, researchers from the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland sought to develop a new type of health promotion program for truck drivers. The program -- using a combination of approaches such as Web-based health and driving safety courses, a safe driving competition, and motivational phone interviews with health counselors -- was designed to take advantage of the laptops and cell phones that many truckers use to keep in touch while on the road.
Researchers said the program produced real reductions in health risks. After six months, truckers enrolled in the program reduced their weight by an average of nearly eight pounds. The study also found that drivers also improved their diets by reducing consumption of fats and sugar, with a trend toward increased physical activity.
The safety component led to reductions in risky driving behaviors, such as time over the speed limit and hard-braking events, as recorded by on-board computers. Drivers who took extra steps to earn a special safety training certificate achieved even greater reductions in health and safety risks, researchers said.
Ryan Olson, lead author of the study, said truck drivers are a prime example of the health risks faced by "lone workers" -- individuals who spend significant time alone or traveling for work such as pilots, traveling consultants and salespeople, and telecommuters. Lone workers, he said, often have limited healthy food choices and opportunities for exercise, in addition to little or no access to workplace health and safety programs. Truckers face specific health risks, including high rates of obesity and diabetes and high exposure to traffic risks.
Olson said the researchers made special efforts to design a program that would be appealing and effective for truck drivers. Some components seemed particularly effective, he said, including Web-based health and safety education and telephone interviews with health counselors.
"The approach may also prove useful for engaging other populations of lone workers in health promotion programs," the study noted.
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January 18, 2010
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