In autumn 1997 a pilot project was started in Finland to develop methods for promoting the health of sailors. Four Finnish shipping companies, (4 cargo ships and 2 passenger-cruise ferries), with altogether 730 sailors participated in the project. Special attention was paid to individuals with health problems and those who generally did not take care of their own health or fitness. Three-quarters of the respondents saw their health as good and one fifth as fair. Thirty-four persons responded that their working capacity was poor. 154 sailors were selected into further physical fitness evaluations. The main task of the project team was to activate sailors to take care of their own health and well-being. The health-promoting activities were directed especially at those persons who needed it. Information lectures concerning healthier eating habits and meals were given. Anti-smoking and anti-alcohol drinking information was given. On board one cruise ferry a project was started on how to react as early as possible to alcohol abuse among seafarers. Courses on shore for sailors were arranged to improve their physical fitness and to increase their resting benefit between working periods at sea. The intervention time was one year. Information about smoking and alcohol led to reduced alcohol consumption. The sailors had started to exercise more often both on board ship and on shore. Those who had increased their physical exercise during free time more often found their own health and working ability to have improved than those who had not changed their exercise habits. It appeared that health intervention projects are really needed especially by older sailors. The results also showed that positive effects could be achieved in the fitness of sailors. Better fitness was good for their health and also increased the work safety.
Sea pilots must be capable of carrying out their work in all situations. Thus, they must not have any disease or defect, that could impair their job performance. By periodic medical examinations attempts are made to ensure their working capacity. In most countries these examinations are carried out by a general practitioner and they include only few if any objective laboratory tests. The aim of the present investigation was to study the effectiveness of the periodic medical examinations to find out in the population of pilots examined persons with health risks, especially risks for cardiovascular diseases. All the pilots examined were over 45 years old (n = 135, response rate 88%). Self-evaluation of health was carried out by a questionnaire. Blood analyses were made and chest X-ray as well as exercise-ECC were taken. The most common subjective symptoms concerned musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal systems; sleep disturbances were also quite common. The three most frequent diseases diagnosed earlier by a doctor were musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal diseases, and arterial hypertension. About 24% of pilots had a lower physical working capacity than predicted. The body mass index indicated at least 11% overweight in half of the cases. At exercise-ECG four pilots appeared to have an ischaemic heart disease and additionally eleven pilots had abnormal ECG. Over 80% of pilots had a serum cholesterol value higher than 5 mmol/l, and serum triglyceride values exceeded the normal value of 2.0 mmol/l in every fourth case. Serum glutamyl transaminase was pathological in over 20% of the cases, and serum glucose level in 8%. The findings by routine physical examinations were very few consisting of stiffness in musculoskeletal system, two cases of elevated blood pressure, two heart murmurs, varicose veins etc. In two cases an inguinal hernia was suspected. The current periodic health examinations does not seem to effectively prevent a person with possible health defect from working as a sea pilot. More objective tests must be included in these examinations and more attention should be paid to prevention of overweight, effective treatment of musculoskeletal symptoms, improving physical working capacity and helping pilots to manage their psychic stress.
347 Finnish deck officers completed the questionnaire on medical training, knowledge and skills. The following conclusions could be drawn: a. Medical training must be based on generally accepted standards, both nationally and internationally. b. More practical exercises should be included in the training. c. Refresher medical training clearly increases knowledge and skills but it also gives the possibility to train, maintain and repeat practical routines. d. Evaluation of the skills should be a part of qualification. e. Good medical knowledge on board ship needs radio-medical services and vice versa.