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Industry support critical to health program growth

A little over a year after the launch of Health in Gear – a customised health and wellbeing program for owner-drivers – and the data in the first annual report speaks volumes to foundation CEO Darren Black.

Despite the many Covid lockdowns tapping the brakes on delivery, the feedback from the field so far has only strengthened Black’s resolve to expand the much-needed service in coming months.

Almost 600 drivers stopped to chat and learn more about what the program was all about during the nine ‘Truckie Tune-Up’ roadside events by the Health in Gear team in recent weeks.

A heartening 85 of those took part in the short health checks which check everything from blood pressure and cholesterol to Body Mass Index and waist measurement.

OzHelp CEO Darren Black.

“We then encourage them to go and see their GP and get a full medical,” said Black, who heads up governing body OzHelp, a leading provider of health and wellbeing programs for hard to reach workers in high risk industries.

“Nearly four out of 10 who went through the check went to see their GP within three weeks of the health check.

“It’s a really good encouraging sign. We can then scale that up and have hundreds of drivers going through, and that’s when you’ll start to have some really good health impacts.

“Ninety-eight per cent of guys who did the initial health checks have said this is a program that they’d recommend to their mates and colleagues.”

Black says the next step is to get more industry support for the initiative.

Although the ‘boots-on-the-ground’ program received $200,000 in the latest round of the Heavy Vehicle Safety Initiative, Black says that funding only goes so far.

“It allows us to get back on the road in NSW and the ACT, and manage the project for another 12 months to do data collection and evaluation, but it is limited,” concedes Black.

“We’re already getting requests to take the health checks to Queensland and Victoria and we’re having to say we’d love to come and support you, but the industry is going to have to start to stump up and make a contribution.”

For all the bumps in the road, however, Black says it’s clear that the face-to-face approach is the way to go with drivers when it comes to talking about their physical and mental health, especially those in the older cohort.

“The more often we can have these types of conversations it normalises and destigmatises talking about it.

“It’s not about making one-off visits to a DC or a truck stop.”

That’s been the most encouraging element of all so far for Black, seeing first-hand the difference it makes when you make a connection with the driver in their place of work.

“It’s very rewarding to see that the process is working. 

“There is a lot of pressure on drivers at the moment. The pandemic has had, and is having, a significant impact on them, not just from practical logistical standpoint.

“But, at other end of spectrum, there is a lot of gratitude in terms of the fact we’re prepared to put our people out there on the road, rain hail or sunshine, and run these roadside health checks and be there in support.”

October is Mental Health Month. For more tips, information, webinars and podcasts, visit healthingear.com.au, or call 1800 In Gear (1800 464 327) Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm.

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