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How drivers can stop diabetes before it starts

Approximately 84 million American adults – more than 1 out of 3 – have prediabetes, according to the CDC. Of those with prediabetes, 90% don’t know they have it.

Drivers with pre-diabetes – the precursor to Type 2 diabetes – is a warning sign for truckers and costly for fleets. Fortunately, it doesn’t take that much effort to keep a driver from becoming diabetic even if they are already diagnosed with pre-diabetes, according to health care experts.

This problem can be turned around with simple steps including eating a healthier diet and losing weight, says Bob Perry, president of newly-formed Health in Transportation (Perry was the founder of Rolling Strong, which he later sold.). “It doesn’t take much to move the needle for drivers. Losing a few pounds can make a huge difference in taking them out of that danger zone.”

During a recent industry presentation, Perry cited government statistics showing that from May 2014 to March 2017 about 15.5 million drivers were examined for their CDLs. Of that pool, almost 9 million received the standard 2-year medical card, almost five million received a 1-year card and 950,000 received a 90-day card. “If you get a one-year card it’s usually because you’re pre-diabetic and pre-hypertensive (high blood pressure). It’s just a matter of time before you [lose your CDL].” At the cost of about $8,500 to hire a new driver, he says, carriers lose a lot of money due to poor driver health.

Perry is helping to recruit drivers for the National Diabetes Prevention Program, an initiative of the Centers for Disease Control, which is focusing on at-risk groups including truck drivers. According to the agency, drivers have a 50 percent higher incidence of diabetes than the adult U.S. population.

Approximately 84 million American adults – more than 1 out of 3 – have prediabetes, according to the CDC. Of those with prediabetes, 90% don’t know they have it.

Several organizations including the Healthy Trucking Association and Omada Health are also involved along with the American Association of Diabetes Educators (ASDE), a membership association that provides different educational resources, tools, and content to healthcare professionals including nurses, dieticians, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals.

Natalie Blum is ASDE manager of prevention and says they got involved in the CDC program after a survey revealed that almost 80% of their members were seeing patients with pre-diabetes. The group received a five-year a cooperative agreement with the CDC to educate underserved populations. She says the program has a proven track record and can prevent or delay diabetes by 58%.

The National Diabetes Prevention scheme is broken into two phases for patients. “The first six months is where individuals attend weekly to bi-weekly sessions. During the second six months they’re meeting on a monthly basis – the maintenance phase of this program,” she says. For drivers, the bulk of the program will be online through Omada Health’s portal.

“Individuals learn everything from eating healthy to staying active. The ultimate goal of the program is for an individual to lose five to seven percent of their starting weight and work up to about 150 minutes of physical activity per week,” Blum says.

She adds: “Our goal for the first year one of this grant is to enroll up to 300 drivers. We’re going to do some analysis, show the success of individuals that are going through this program, and we plan to increase each year the number of drivers. The long-term goal of this is to make a sustainable program by getting fleets on board with this program and offering it as a health and wellness program specific to their drivers.”

Blum is optimistic. “Fleets want to keep their drivers on board and are continuously trying to find various methods to ensure that they retain their drivers. Maybe offering a program like this, ensuring that their drivers feel like they’re supported and have various health programs out there to support them, might encourage a driver to stay with a company a little longer.”

Drivers can take an online test here to determine if they’re pre-diabetic.

Signs and Symptoms of pre-diabetes (from the CDC)

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active fewer than three times a week
  • Ever having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Having polycystic ovary syndrome

Race and ethnicity are also a factor: African Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk.

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