250 cabbies take a walk to drive away diabetes ignorance
SOME 250 taxi drivers stretched, did taiji and walked 3km around the Gardens by the Bay and Marina Barrage yesterday morning - all in the name of diabetes awareness.
The drivers 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 also encouraged to take less sweet drinks and exercise more.
Diabetes is one of the biggest preventable drains on the healthcare system. The chronic disease costs the country $1 billion a year, in terms of treatment as well as lost manhours.
Mr Gan, who heads the Diabetes Prevention and Care Taskforce with Acting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng, on 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 activities like these would help encourage more cabbies to take ownership of their health.
The NTA is also collaborating with the National Kidney Foundation to offer free health screening to all its 21,000 members.
Mr Ang said the NTA would be happy to provide feedback to the task force.
He added: "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 noted 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 interviewed yesterday said that it is difficult but necessary to try and include exercise in their long shifts.
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.
Said another cabbie Pedro Wu, 64: "In the car, we can only do simple stretching."
After suffering 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 so you just have to take precautions," said Mr Wu.