Terveystalo´s new centre of transport medicine promotes professional drivers' work ability

The transport and logistics sector is a major employer in long-distance Finland. Ensuring the well-being and fitness for work of professional drivers requires special knowledge of their needs and the nature of their work, which is why Terveystalo is now establishing a multi-professional centre for transport medicine to serve the transport and logistics sector. The new centre aims to find ways to address the main health risks for professional drivers, which are associated with musculoskeletal and lifestyle diseases.

Terveystalo will bring together the experts in transport medicine working in its network in the new centre. The centre, which will serve occupational health clients, will focus on supporting professional drivers' work ability and preventing the risk of disability, drawing on the expertise of transport medicine.

Our occupational health teams treating professional drivers will be better supported by experts in transport medicine who have a deeper understanding of the specificities of a particular transport sector. This will ensure that the physical and psychosocial stress factors that affect professional drivers' ability to work and drive are taken into account and that road safety is at the heart of work performance management," says Matleena Näppilä, the doctor in charge of Terveystalo's Centre for Transport Medicine.

Maritime, rail and aviation experts involved in the centre's activities

In addition to road transport, Terveystalo's Transport Medicine Centre also hosts a national network of railway doctors, seafarers' doctors and aviation doctors, approved by Traficom, as well as the City of Helsinki's Maritime Health Centre, which opened in 2022 at Terveystalo Keskuskatu.

– By bringing together all the experts in transport medicine, we ensure that the professionals in our network have the opportunity to maintain and develop their skills in a systematic way. In a multidisciplinary collaboration, our occupational health professionals can easily consult with specialists in transport medicine. This enables us to offer our corporate clients in the transport and logistics sector a consistent service, irrespective of location," says Näppilä.

Musculoskeletal and lifestyle diseases as a scourge for transport and logistics workers

The transport sector puts a strain on the musculoskeletal system. Professional drivers' ability to work is particularly challenged by being stationary and by the monotonous strain during the working day. Heavy lifting exposes professional goods transport drivers to lower back and neck and shoulder symptoms, while in passenger and goods transport, sitting for more than 7 hours a day causes health problems. Indeed, physical p ascravity is one of the main health risks for workers in the sector.

– In the transport sector, musculoskeletal disorders remain the most common cause of sick leave or disability retirement, as the work involves little or one-sided movement. In the transport sector, this must be taken into account when planning work, as active leisure time does not completely cancel out the physical inactivity of working days, Näppilä continues.

Nature of work predisposes to the onset of lifestyle diseases

Studies* have shown that professional drivers are in poorer health than people in other occupations.

– In addition to the challenge of getting enough exercise in a professional driver's job, it is also more difficult to follow the recommended diet in a changing environment than in a fixed work environment. These factors increase the risk factors for lifestyle diseases such as obesity, physical inactivity, diet and smoking among professional drivers. This leads to a multiple risk of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and sleep apnoea," says Näppilä.

Studies on the health of professional drivers

  • Cardiometabolic risk factors and mental health status among truck drivers: a systematic review (BMJ Open. 2020; 10(10): e038993.Published online 2020 Oct 23. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2020-038993)
  • Incidence and prevalence of type 2 diabetes by occupation: results from all Swedish employees Diabetologia. 2020 Jan;63(1):95-103. doi: 10.1007/s00125-019-04997-5. Epub 2019 Sep 17.
  • Prevalence of sleep apnea and daytime sleepiness in professional truck drivers Sleep Med. 2021 May:81:136-143. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2021.02.023. epub 2021 Feb 16

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