Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Drive to improve health of cabbies

MOU signed to bring health board's programmes to 14,000 taxi drivers
By Royston Sim, The Straits Times, 19 Nov 2012

THE National Taxi Association (NTA) and Health Promotion Board (HPB) are co-driving an initiative to improve the health of cabbies, many of whom spend long hours on the road.

They signed a memorandum of understanding yesterday to bring the board's workplace health schemes to 14,000 taxi drivers under the association.

As cabbies are considered self-employed, they did not have access to workplace health programmes prior to this signing at Yio Chu Kang Community Club.

A health roadshow was held there over the weekend, with free screenings provided for about 200 cabbies.

To allow more to be checked for chronic diseases, health centres have also been set up at six taxi service centres. Drivers can also refer to health brochures and measure their blood pressure and body mass index while waiting for their cabs to be serviced there.

The board estimates that an average of 200 taxis are serviced each day at each of the locations.

HPB chief executive Ang Hak Seng noted that extended periods of sitting increase the risk of diabetes and heart disease.

With some drivers on the roads for as long as 14 to 16 hours, there is a higher probability of them suffering from chronic ailments, he added.

Stretch bands and exercise guides will be distributed to cabbies to encourage them to do resistance exercises during their free time.

Customised workshops on workplace health will also be conducted regularly for the NTA leaders so they can pass on healthy lifestyle messages. The first workshop was held earlier this month and the next is expected to take place next January.

Minister of State for Health, Dr Amy Khor, who spoke on the sidelines of the signing, advised cabbies to adopt healthy eating habits, exercise during their free time and watch their driving posture.

She noted that about 65 per cent of NTA's drivers are aged 50 and above, and this group of older drivers would be more susceptible to chronic diseases.

NTA president Wee Boon Kim, who welcomes the collaboration, said: "As self-employed taxi drivers, we have no medical benefits or privileges. It's important to stay healthy... so we can drive till the age of 75."

Cabby Alfred Lim, 65, said most taxi drivers do not exercise as they are tired after spending long hours behind the wheel.

Giving the thumbs up to the move to encourage more cabbies to do basic stretching exercises, he noted: "The individual drivers also have to take care of their own health."

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