Saturday, December 2, 2023

THE VOICE: We’re taking health to farmers

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Why don’t farmers go to see their doctors was the question I was asked at a health provider meeting in September.
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The meeting was attended by the local doctor, suicide prevention team leaders, Rural Support Trust, the Asburton Community Alcohol and Drug Service and support counsellors from the local hospitals and schools. Primary Industries Ministry welfare team members were also there to inform the group of issues and support around Mycoplasma bovis.

My involvement came about when my own doctor asked me to give a farmers’ perspective on rural issues as well as to improve the lines of communication between all concerned to benefit the farming families around Mid Canterbury.

As usual I laid it on pretty thick regarding the disconnect between what the providers of the services think is needed and what the farmers really want to help them through their working week.

It’s hard to understand the needs of rural NZ when the directives given to the health providers are set in Wellington on advice from people who might not have a real understanding of the continually changing environment farmers now face as well as working in the low financial envelop the rural health budget finds itself in. 

The last three years have seen an increase in many external pressures on farmers that were never around before the run-up to the last election. 

They include huge social media and mainstream media analysis of the perception of farming, serious vote catching by the Labour Party at the farmers expense and the fallout since as those policies on water and environment are implemented or proposed, M bovis and, of course, the insecurity around the milk price and milk co-ops to name a few. 

Now we see a rise in pressure from banks as equity in farm ownership is challenged by the falling share price of Fonterra and uncertainty around land values while the water and environment policies are in the pipeline.

Farmers are just too busy getting through the day and do not prioritise their own health as an important cog in the wheels of success and sustainability of their business. 

Match that with the increasing difficulty of getting an appointment with a doctor who has both the time and knowledge of farming issues to do the visit justice and many farmers put it on the back burner for when it’s necessary to see a doctor not as proactive personal management.

I told the group to stop expecting farmers to go to them but for them to go to farmers and to put my money where my mouth is I literally threw the good lady doctor Sue Fowlie and her nurse in the back of my horse float and went to the Coalgate sale yards. We put more than farmers, stock agents and sale yard workers, men and woman, through a mini health check where we found about 25% of those tested needed further medical advice or testing and perhaps medication for high blood pressure, lung capacity and breathing issues matched with a family history of serious issues and a lack of recent doctor visits.

The same tests were done at the Waimate shearing competition and the results showed closer to 30% needed to take preventive action.

Fowlie, from Rakaia Medical Centre along with the team here at GlobalHQ are now going to where the farmers are and facilitating these health checks for those who are too busy to look after themselves. 

We see you rural people as the most important part of the community and without you this country is sliding backwards. 

Healthy communities are made up of healthy people. Doctors used to be a pivotal part of those communities, however, that has been diluted but they want to be at the forefront of farmers’ minds when it comes to wellbeing. They can facilitate a lot of support for mental health and physical issues and use the many government and volunteer support networks that might be needed. 

With the support of local doctors and nurses looking to extend their practice and contribute to their communities the team at GlobalHQ will be taking its health and wellbeing caravan to an event or sale yard near you. 

The checks are free and will help rural people make an informed decision about their health rather than living in the unknown. 

If we gather enough data we might be able to put rural health back at the forefront of talks in Wellington leading up to the next election or we might just save a life.

Either way this for you so look for the bright orange caravan and pay us a visit.

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