250 cabbies walk to 'drive away diabetes'

Participants of the 3km walk that took place around Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage yesterday. The cabbies were joined by 250 family members, as well as Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who flagged off the walk.
Participants of the 3km walk that took place around Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage yesterday. The cabbies were joined by 250 family members, as well as Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who flagged off the walk.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Taxi body's 3km walkathon seeks to raise awareness of how drivers can prevent disease

Some 250 taxi drivers stretched, did taiji and walked 3km around Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage yesterday morning - all in the name of diabetes awareness.

They were taking part in the National Taxi Association's (NTA) first 3km "Drive away diabetes" walkathon, which seeks to raise awareness on how drivers can prevent diabetes.

They were joined by 250 of their family members, as well as Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who flagged off the walk. The cabbies were encouraged to take less sweet drinks and exercise more.

Diabetes is a preventable drain on the healthcare system. The disease costs the country $1 billion a year, in terms of treatment as well as lost man-hours.

Mr Gan, who heads the Diabetes Prevention and Care Taskforce with Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng, last Saturday launched a six-month crowdsourcing exercise that seeks to find ways to motivate people to eat properly, exercise regularly, watch their weight and stay healthy.

Speaking to the media before the walkathon yesterday, NTA executive adviser Ang Hin Kee said he hopes such activities will help encourage more cabbies to take ownership of their health.

The NTA is also collaborating with the National Kidney Foundation to offer free health screenings to all its 21,000 members.

Mr Ang said the NTA would be happy to provide feedback to the task force. He said: "The job nature of taxi driving, coupled with the fact that most cabbies are in their 50s to 60s, make them more vulnerable to the threat of diabetes."

He added that many drivers have seen their peers stricken by illnesses such as diabetes or stroke and realise that "these problems not only impact their health, but also their livelihood".

Cabbies told The Straits Times yesterday that it is difficult but necessary to try to include exercise in their long shifts. Mr Ramasamy Kupusamy, 70, said he walks up and down the stairs to his fourth-floor Housing Board flat daily and washes his taxi by hand every day.

Mr Pedro Wu, 64, another cabby, said: "In the car, we can do only simple stretching."

After he had a mild stroke four years ago, he now tries to brisk walk daily after his eight-hour shift.

"No one wants to be sick. You can't predict what will happen and so you just have to take precautions," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 26, 2016, with the headline '250 cabbies walk to 'drive away diabetes''. Print Edition | Subscribe