Conference looks at farmers’ health issues

A regional conference looking at how current difficulties and changing times can impact on farmers’ health was held today (7 November) in Greenmount College. The aim was to look at what rural health issues are, promoting support services to those who need it and how growth and prosperity within the industry can be encouraged. It was jointly organised by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and Rural Support.

Dr Brian Hunter, GP Medical Director with the Northern Trust said, “Farming always has challenges and will continue to do. As we now come into another winter, things like bad weather and cash flow problems can make the normal stressors worse. Hazards associated with farm work include accidents, stress, mental health problems and muscle and bone disorders. New technology and machines have reduced physical activity which increases the risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes. If farmers have the right advice and support they can maintain their own health and wellbeing making sure they can remain active and productive – the aim of the conference was to highlight health issues and how others in the agrifood sector could make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of farmers.

“The agrifood sector is the largest employer in Northern Ireland and is a natural resource from which all of our society can benefit. Everyone has a part to play, including the health service, financial organisations and the agricultural industry itself, in supporting the health and wellbeing of rural communities and farm families.”

A range of key speakers within agriculture and the health service addressed the conference including Health Minister Edwin Poots and Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill. It was supported by key agricultural representatives including the Ulster Farmer’s Union, policy makers, politicians, farmers, industry leaders, agri-food professionals, banks and health care professionals.

Jude McCann, Director from Rural Support said “This conference is part of Rural Support’s work of giving voice to the issues that the farming and rural community are facing. Working in isolation and increased farm pressures can often create challenges for farm families. This is an opportunity to encourage everyone to seek support before a problem becomes a crisis. We are delighted to see so many people interested in rural health issues and we hope that everyone can work together to create a healthy and prosperous rural community. “

The Northern Trust has been working in partnership for many years on a number of projects aimed at improving health and wellbeing for farming families.

8th November 2013

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