The road­house blues

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - World Diabetes Day - Michele Nu­gent

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.

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