A joint effort between the Queensland Trucking Association and Heart of Australia, is an initiative going to the heart of trucking health. It is bringing much-needed high-level healthcare to the trucking industry and regional areas all across Queensland, and beyond.
The QTA’s ‘Driving Better Health’, is an initiative to support health and wellbeing for heavy vehicle transport drivers across Australia. The Heart Health Convoy will visit 12 locations and provide up to 400 health assessments. The project relies on a mobile clinic providing health assessments, which will address key conditions including: nutrition, movement and fitness, psychological health, sleep, blood pressure, respiratory function and other risks like diabetes, liver function, lipid profile and kidney function.
“The trucking industry are the arteries of the country and very important, ” said Dr Ross Baillie, Medical Director of Heart of Australia, at the initiative’s launch. “Health is important, truck drivers are professionals and we work with different industries and we pretty much know what we are going to find. Based on the work we have done over a number of years, I can say to you that we have had some of the healthiest people working in the road transport industry.
“Everyone needs to understand that we have choices to make and our behaviour impacts on those people that we work with.
“Specialties like cardiology are very different from what they were 100 years ago. Getting a lot of the tech to be made available to people in rural communities was the original vision behind Heart of Australia. We were very privileged back in 2014 to see the birth of Heart of Australia in Toowoomba.
“Since then they have been a number of offspring, the 27-metre B-double Heart 2 is parked here as part of Yarn in the Yard. There are also two other trucks on the production line at the moment. One of the new trucks will have a CT scanner on board. The expansion to five trucks means that the project can better cover the whole of rural Queensland.”
The more trucks there are on the road the more time they can spend in the townships where they are needed and providing resources for rural communities. Despite the name Heart of Australia the project has expanded well beyond that to a whole range of specialities. All of the specialties now catered for have the own tech, which the project has had to acquire as it has grown.
“A couple of years ago we started another initiative, the Heart of Australia Corporate Health Initiative,” said Ross.
“The problem is, a lot of people, especially guys, never see a GP for normal health screenings. If they do visit the doctor, it is probably for a medical certificate or an injury. Doctors are often highly pressured in rule areas and might not get the full picture from the patient.
“Dealing with groups, we found that there is something called a network effect. People do health screens as a group and they get reports which are understandable, and they understand that the information is simply between us and the individual and will not go to their employer or anybody else.”
The Network Effect
In these sorts of situations Heart of Australia have found a network effect, whereby people within the group will talk to each other about their reports. This has a major impact and will bring issues front of mind. It has been found that these kinds of interactions have a profound effect on improving the health within a single workforce.
“What we look at, as Heart of Australia, is a health screening which looks at all of the risks,” said Ross. “All of these things are connected and it enables people to see a dashboard which identifies risk. That then gives you information about those risks that you can understand. This then creates awareness and improves the awareness around these issues.”
The idea is to bring health issues which may be in the background, into the foreground and inform those involved in a way that they can understand and which will encourage them to initiate a discussion about possible treatment.
“It’s a self-reinforcing cycle,” said Ross. “If we don’t do that, we move up the pyramid and we may be seeing more complex problems, and conditions which are reversible becoming chronic diseases. At that point, we may not be able to get people back to their normal health and vitality.
“There has been a big move now, in overall health health, where we are looking at the whole person and not just as an employee,” said Ross. “It has a really big impact, truck drivers aren’t just employees, they are family members, they are husbands, wives etc. There is a big understanding now of bringing employee health and personal health together. There are always big health and safety issues connected with each industry, but there are some general issues which pertain to everybody.
“A lot of people in our community may have cardiovascular disease, a lot more people have at least one chronic illness, and when we are looking at these chronic illnesses, we are looking at a whole range of things: cardiovascular illness, cancer, diabetes, mental health and then a whole range of other things.
“A lot of this is preventable, if we understand what the causes are, and that all links to our mental health. We have a big problem at the moment, not just in Australia, but all around the world, particularly with young people, there is a tsunami of mental health issues. It’s good that we’re talking about that and it’s good that we have things like the ‘RU OK’ Day, but it’s very important to remember that our mental health is very much related to our physical health.”