The roadhouse blues
SHERL Westlund has been dedicated to her work with Diabetes Research WA (DRWA) for 18 years. But after witnessing type 2 diabetes take on epidemic proportions in Australia in the past decade, she can no longer ignore a vital section of the community whose declining health has the potential to negatively effect the safety of countless others.
Professional drivers, or truckies as we know them, are overrepresented in national obesity statistics and Ms Westlund believes they would feature highly in the two million pre-diabetic Australians.
With the WA Road Transport Association (WARTA), she has called for an overhaul of menus at roadhouses, service stations and truck stops, saying it is time professional drivers were offered healthier food alternatives while work- ing on the road.
“We know being overweight and having a stressful, sedentary job are high risk factors for type 2 diabetes. I needed to stand up and say something on behalf of truckies - the food available to them while they are on the road is appalling,” Ms Westlund said.
The South Perth resident has been DRWA executive director for the past seven years and wants to start a conversation about offering healthier choices at roadhouses and edu- cating drivers and food retailers.
A study published in 2010 found US transportation workers were at greatest risk for metabolic syndrome, a condition associated with obesity that raises the risk of type 2 diabetes.
“We have little doubt these results would be mirrored in Australia,” she said.
Carlisle based-WARTA chief executive Ian King said access to healthy food while working was critical for safety and health.
“If roadhouses supply healthy good food, which our truckies want, they will stop driving to go in and buy and eat that food. If not, they will drive straight past and warm up a pie in their own microwave,” Mr King said.
“Stopping means getting them out of the truck, they have a walk around and that stops fatigue.”
Some of the typical food sold at service stations.