The health checks were held recently as part of the Gippsland Health, Safety and Wellbeing initiative and also included an information session about diabetes.
“It went really really well, I was quite surprised that the guys were so relaxed about it. We talked about it beforehand and I explained that it might highlight some health issues for us to deal with but it’s all confidential – they were happy with that,” said Golden Beach Captain Paula Grosveld.
“Some of the fellas need to make a few changes to their lifestyle, mainly around fitness and diet choices. Most of them are used to working in quite physical environments, whereas our auxiliary girls already feel the need to get up and move a bit more to get their exercise.
“I did all right but the cholesterol check showed that I’m right on the border, and that I really need to watch what I’m doing now with my lifestyle. That was a good thing for me – I’ve never felt the need to check before.”
So how does Paula balance her health with the responsibilities of being a brigade captain?
“I’ve got a Labrador named Elliot. I walk six kilometres every day − everybody should get a dog. I’m busy but I love it. My alcohol intake is very limited to say the least. I watch what I eat, unless there’s waffles or sticky date pudding on offer of course!”
The session at the Sarsfield station was well received and attracted nearly 40 people.
“The general feeling was that it was very worthwhile. I was very happy with it,” said Sarsfield Captain Ian Brownrigg.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if we had one or two positive tests come back, just with that many people in the room you’d have to come up with something. One of our Lieutenants has already been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes and he’s only 40. It really hit close to home for us.”
“It came out that some of our members have a family history of health problems and cancer. I know our members well but I didn’t know about that. In management terms you need to know as much as you can about your guys because you’ve got to deal with it all, so the more information the better.
“There are a lot of things in there – it’s just about bringing them to people’s attention. You can’t plead ignorance until it’s too late – you need to get on to it early.
“Something that was stressed through the health checks was the risks that increase once you get over 50 years old. If you’re a smoker over 50 you’re at high risk of heart disease, which contributes to diabetes risk. Being overweight and smoking both increase your risk.
“I’m turning 50 next week and it really puts you in a different basket − I was surprised at my assessment. I’m 6 feet 2 inches and weigh 104 kilograms, I’m pretty fit and I’m not fat, but I’m 20 kilograms out of my weight range. I’m not the healthiest person in the world – I don’t drink or smoke but I still have plenty of sugar.
While these checks are a great way to keep members healthy and operational for longer, the Sarsfield brigade are a step ahead when it comes to building a sustainable workforce – young members.
“Young people are a valuable asset. We’ve got a fantastic senior group which is really active but also have a lot of members in their early twenties – one of our Lieutenants if 22. We also have a good representation from that 30 year old age bracket – they’re young but also mature enough to lead.
“A lot of people ask me how we attract young people. Attracting them is easy – you’ve got to keep them. We do lot of roadside burning – young people didn’t join CFA to do the Chook Raffle. There’s a job for everyone.
“We make them feel equal. I’m pretty young at heart – I have 22 year old kids. Treat them with respect and you get it back in one way or another,” Ian said.
The Gippsland Health, Safety and Wellbeing initiative is sponsored through the Gippsland Wellbeing and OHS Committees to focus on volunteer wellbeing within the region. The Region is working closely with Diabetes Victoria to raise diabetes awareness amongst volunteers as part of an overall package of health and wellbeing sessions available.
If your brigade would like further information about free health checks please contact your local Workplace Health and Safety Advisor.
Contacts for Diabetes sessions in Gippsland Region are Robyn Dodd, Manager Human Resources on 0488641400 or Ray Tunks, Workplace Health Safety, on 0418355005.