Overcoming doctor phobia & scheduling regular checkups

By on June 30, 2011
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Long-haul driver Clifford Robinson didn’t like the toll unhealthy eating and a sedentary lifestyle was taking on his 44-year-old body. So the timing was good when, almost a year ago, a new job with Celadon Trucking Services Inc. prompted him to visit the company’s medical office for a battery of health screenings.

Nurses told Robinson that he was about 100 pounds over his ideal weight, giving him risk factors for type 2 diabetes and other health problems if he didn’t make some changes. They urged him to lose weight, exercise and come back to Celadon’s Indianapolis headquarters regularly to chart his progress.

Robinson took their warnings to heart. He’s lost 30 pounds in the past eight months and gets his vitals checked by Celadon nurses every time he passes through on cross-country trips. Rather than sitting back and waiting for something bad to happen, he’s thrilled to finally take a proactive approach to wellness.

“Like most men, I never went to the doctor unless I really had a problem,” Robinson says. “Now whenever I’m in Indianapolis and in the terminal, I go there and weigh myself and check my blood pressure.”

Taking control

Celadon started its Highway 2 Health program in 2006, and in April opened a stand-alone medical center at its Indianapolis headquarters, staffed by nurses, a rehab expert and a doctor in partnership with the Community Health Network. Seeing truckers embrace the screenings and take control of their health has been gratifying, and good business for the carrier.

“For a driver to see a doctor is quite challenging. They might make an appointment, but if they miss it by 10 minutes, they miss it,” says Steve Russell, Celadon’s CEO and chairman.

Having a medical center available through the company solves that problem. At screenings and during full physicals, drivers are given simple tips to better health, and medical personnel can explain details about screenings for hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, for example, that would be foreign to someone who’s always avoided trips to the doctor. Russell shared one tip about getting exercise at the truckstop.

“If you walk around a tractor-trailer 50 times, it takes about a half hour and you’ve walked about two miles,” he says.

On the move

Health screenings like those offered by Celadon are in short supply across the trucking industry, according to Jon Osburn, a longtime paramedic and 21-year trucker who criss-crosses the country in the MeRV (Medical Resource Vehicle), administering basic health screenings and sharing wellness information with truckers. The MeRV, supported by a number of groups connected to the trucking industry, is on the road 300 days a year, allowing Osburn to meet with 50 to 300 drivers a day at truckstops and trucking events.

“Most truckers work for companies with less than five drivers, so they don’t have health insurance,’’ Osburn says. “Many have terrible teeth, blood pressure problems and can be walking heart attacks. Cancer is rampant out there and diabetes is on the upswing.”

Osburn talks to drivers about getting the appropriate health screenings and proper frequency of tests, and hands out literature they can read at their convenience. He does basic screening for blood pressure and heart rate, and also dispenses tests drivers can administer themselves for diabetes, cholesterol and colon cancer. Most of the services are free, but some tests come at a nominal cost.

Robinson is happy with changes he’s made coinciding with his regular visits with the nurses at Celadon. He’s ditched the TV in his cab and replaced fast food with oranges, bananas and the salad bar.

“I was going down a wayward road and this has changed my life for the better,’’ Robinson explains. “I have more energy, I’m more focused and I’m not as worn out at the end of the day.”

What does he suggest to other drivers hesitant about seeing a doctor for health screenings or a physical?

“Go to the clinic and get checked out. Get to a problem early and nip it in the bud,’’ he says. “You’ll have a much better chance of survival and a better quality of life.”

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