IT’S nearly that time of year again- time to make New Year’s resolutions. Why not resolve to improve your health by visiting one of the Farm Families Health Checks at your local livestock mart.
Since 2006 the Northern Trust, in partnership with the UFU and the Northern Commissioning Group have been promoting farmers’ health and wellbeing through a number of initiatives. It was the success of a three day health screening event in Ballymena mart in 2010, where qualified healthcare staff carried out health checks such as blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar monitoring as well as weight and BMI, that prompted the UFU to lobby for similar initiatives to be rolled-out provincewide. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and the Public Health agency (PHA) responded by developing a community outreach model to develop and deliver a three year programme of health screening in marts and community venues, bringing health checks and healthcare advice to farmers.
Farming is an all season, all weather job and busy working schedules often mean that farmers don’t have time to think about their health. Farmers work long hours, often in isolation and are likely to live a considerable distance from their nearest health service. This health initiative aims to overcome these barriers to accessing health care.
Over 1,000 people have already made use of this service including Francis McHenry, beef and sheep farmer from Co Antrim. Francis commented: “I called into the Farm Family Health check mobile unit at the Ballymena Mart a few months ago and was really impressed by the service I received. I was at the mart and called in to get my blood sugars checked. They turned out to be a fair bit higher than they should have been and I was advised to go see my GP, which I did. What really impressed me was that a month later the nurse rang me to see if I had followed through with her advice. They are providing an excellent service and a lot of farmers are making good use of it. I know of one instance where they have actually saved someone’s life. The person was in the early stages of a heart attack and was at the mart and called in because they were having tingling in their arms. The nurses recognised the heart attack straight away and called an ambulance. It really is an excellent service. It’s convenient and dead easy to use and I would encourage all farmers to take advantage of it.”
UFU Rural Affairs Committee Chair, Ruth Irvine said: “This early intervention initiative has proven to be a great success and greatly benefits rural communities. Farmers are very positive about the programme and appreciate the service and I hope it continues to improve the health and well-being of the farming community. I would encourage everyone to avail of this worthwhile and free service.”
Yvonne Carson, senior health promotion officer, Northern Trust commented: “We are delighted that DARD and PHA have agreed to fund this initiative. It has proven to be a very successful way of engaging farmers who are often too busy to attend their local health centre. Community venues as well as marts will be included in this new programme and this will enable the wider farming family to avail of the health checks too.”
The UFU have agreed to work alongside other key stakeholders to support the delivery of this programme.