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Program designed for “lone workers” such as truckers, improves health

Lone workers, such as truckers, pilots, and traveling salespeople have limited opportunities for exercise and access to workplace health and safety programs, and may find it difficult to make healthy food choices. Truckers face specific health risks, including high rates of obesity and diabetes and high exposure to traffic risks.

A program developed by researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, used a combination of approaches including web-based health and driving safety courses, a safe driving competition, and motivational phone interviews with health counselors to provide safety and health information to drivers. 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. They also improved their diets by reducing consumption of fats and sugar, with a trend toward increased physical activity.

In addition, an onboard computer program indicated that participants had less risky driving behaviors, reducing time driving over the speed limit and fewer hard-braking incidents. Drivers who took extra steps to earn a special safety-training certificate achieved even greater reductions in health and safety risks.

According to a news release announcing the study results, that were published in the November 2009 Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (JOEM), researchers made special efforts to design a program that would be appealing and effective for truck drivers. Some components seemed particularly effective, 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,” according to the authors.