Drive to help bus captains stay healthy

Bus captains trying out healthier food options recommended by the Health Promotion Board, at the SMRT Choa Chu Kang bus interchange, as Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor (back row, in red) and Senior Minister of State for Fina
Bus captains trying out healthier food options recommended by the Health Promotion Board, at the SMRT Choa Chu Kang bus interchange, as Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor (back row, in red) and Senior Minister of State for Finance and Transport Josephine Teo (in white) look on.ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

New programme offers free health checks and coaches to advise on diet and exercise

Bus drivers are getting free health checks and tips on how to eat right, exercise properly and manage their chronic diseases, under a new workplace health programme being piloted.

More importantly, the six- month programme will be brought right to their doorstep - through monthly talks and health coaching sessions that will be held at bus interchanges in Ang Mo Kio, Boon Lay and Choa Chu Kang.

The programme, which kicked off two months ago and was unveiled yesterday, is an initiative of the Ministerial Committee on Ageing and the Tripartite Oversight Committee on Workplace Health.

Some 400 bus captains from SBS Transit and SMRT are taking part in the scheme, and have already undergone a basic health screening.

Senior Minister of State for Health and Manpower Amy Khor said bus captains face specific challenges from the long hours they put in - up to 10 hours a day, six days a week - which lead to fatigue, poor hydration and backaches.

"(There are) multiple stress (factors) also, because of road conditions, demanding passengers, as well as perhaps trying to meet service requirements to be punctual," she added.

The workforce is also mature - about 60 per cent of bus captains are 40 or older, she said.

To tackle these issues, health coaches will focus on topics such as nutrition, exercise, driving ergonomics, and looking after one's vision and mental health. Chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and high blood pressure will be addressed as well.

There will also be healthier meals at the canteens, including dishes with brown rice.

Moreover, the health talks will be held between noon and 4pm, while the bus captains are changing shifts, to minimise disruption to their work schedules.

Bus drivers are taking these health lessons to heart.

Take Mrs Wang Moi Fan, 46, a senior bus captain with SBS Transit, who said in Mandarin: "In the past, I always ate fried foods like fried chicken but, now, I go for steamed fish and more vegetables.

"The company also gave us health screenings before, but there were no coaching sessions. This is good," she added.

SMRT chief bus captain Lam Choong Kian, 60, has ramped up his workout routines.

"I used to do just 15 minutes on the step trainer but, now, I go for 40 minutes to an hour. I'm dripping in sweat by the end!" he said.

The workplace health programme for bus captains is being conducted in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, the National Transport Workers' Union, SBS Transit, SMRT, the Health Promotion Board and Tan Tock Seng Hospital's Institute of Geriatrics and Active Ageing.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 01, 2015, with the headline 'Drive to help bus captains stay healthy'. Print Edition | Subscribe