A new program called SHIFT is providing critical health surveys for the long-distance truck drivers who bring us the products that we enjoy each day.
SHIFT is a project of the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences at Oregon Health & Science University, and the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, which has delivered funding for the program.
In SHIFT, truckers in participating companies can sign up to get free health evaluations, including blood pressure and fitness tests, as well as cholesterol and blood sugar tests. Some can also participate in weight-loss programs and other wellness programs for prizes.
In general, work safety advocates recognize that truck drivers face many risks on the job. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has found that truck drivers are the victims of 10 percent of all U.S. workplace fatalities and approximately 8 percent of all musculoskeletal injuries. But other risks are related to the sedentary nature of the job and the confinement to the truck cabin. For example, according to the Centers for Disease Control, truck drivers are at a 20-percent higher risk for obesity. That’s part of what SHIFT is set up to deal with: By monitoring truckers, SHIFT can save individual lives while also building a more detailed body of statistics to work from in researching industry health outcomes.
“Poor health amongst commercial truck drivers is a dangerous and costly public health problem,” reads a paper published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine on past SHIFT studies, citing risks for conditions like diabetes, stroke, and heart disease. Describing SHIFT as an intervention program, the paper indicates that SHIFT has been more effective than similar programs done in the past.
Programs like SHIFT can also help to push truckers toward available health care options. In a 2010 study called the National Survey of Long-Haul Truck Driver Health and Injury, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration surveyed more than 1,600 truck drivers at locations around the country. Along with finding higher incidence of unhealthy behaviors (for example, truckers are over two times more likely to smoke than the general working population), the FMCSA also found that truck drivers have a disproportionately greater uninsured population, with two times as many drivers uninsured. In addition, significant numbers of truck drivers self-reported a range of poor health indicators such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The study cites NIOSH strategic goals to improve health outcomes for truck drivers, including enabling drivers to “engage in healthy behaviors” and increasing “health care utilization.”
More information on SHIFT can be found at the program’s website.