Wednesday, July 5, 2017


"Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope."  
                                                                                  --Robert F. Kennedy

Image result for school bus

A friend of mine has a CDL license and works as a school bus driver.  She and I frequently talk about the life of professional drivers, whether you are a long-haul truck driver moving products across the country or driving 40 rambunctious kids in a school bus from one side of the county to the other.  

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The lifestyle of a long-haul truck driver is unique:  
  • being gone from home and loved ones days and weeks at a time;
  • sitting and driving all day (or night) while working;
  • sleeping in the cab of a truck;
  • missing birthdays, sports and school activities; and
  • eating restaurant foods high in sodium and unhealthy fats and drinking energy drinks full of sugar and caffeine.

While school bus drivers sleep in their own beds every night, they face pre-dawn safety checks no matter how or cold it is, the stress of a split shift schedule, working in a sedentary job, avoiding rude and thoughtless drivers while driving a school bus filled with children, and responsible for the safety and well-being of every child they transport to and from schools across this country.

Professional drivers are at increased risk for obesity and obesity-related diseases such as diabetes.  Why?  Jobs where people are sedentary, have high stress, and limited access to healthy, whole and plant-based foods put people in the bullseye of danger.  It is estimated that more than half of all truck drivers smoke. Seven in ten long-haul truck drivers are obese.  Veterans are being recruited into the long-haul trucking business and some have post-traumatic stress disorder.  All these people are targets for Big Pharma.  Got high blood pressure?  Take a pill.  Got high cholesterol?  Take a pill.  Got high blood sugar?  Take a pill. Got chronic pain?  Take a pill.  Got opioid-induced constipation?  Take a pill.  Can't sleep?  Take a pill.

Pills don’t treat the root causes of preventable diseases like obesity and diabetes.  Taking action to make personal health a priority does.  

Can you imagine shopping at Sam’s Club or Costco and finding all the shelves empty?  If every truck driver in the US suddenly developed diabetes, movement of goods in this country would come to a screeching halt.  Can you imagine America’s kids waiting for the school bus on the first day of school next month but no buses show up because all the drivers could not pass their health physicals?  Diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea, and obesity pose dangers to the health of Americans, but especially to professional drivers working to support their families. These diseases can strip them of their livelihood.  

What do truck drivers and school bus drivers have in common with the Growing Healthy Kids movement to prevent and reverse childhood obesity?  Families.  Every professional driver is connected to a network of family and friends.  They are role models for children, their own or someone else’s. 

Image result for truck drivers

Are you in the driver’s seat of your own health?  Let’s work together to improve the health and health outcomes of America’s professional drivers.  I believe that if we are going to improve the health – and lives – of America’s children, we must care for their parents’ health.  Being sedentary or having a job that involves mainly sitting is considered by health experts to be as bad for your health as smoking.  

Reversing and preventing obesity and diabetes is a family affair.  Make your own health a priority.   Be a great role model for your children. 

Please pass the gluten-free zucchini muffins. 

With love and gratitude,
Nancy L. Heinrich, MPH

Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.