Farm Families celebrate 20,000 health check milestone

Farm Families Team with 20,000th service user

The Farm Families Health Checks Programme this week celebrated its 20,000th health screening.

Minister for Health, Robin Swann MLA, attended the celebration at Ballymena Livestock Mart alongside Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister, Edwin Poots MLA.

Minister Swann said: “Today’s 20,000th health check demonstrates the success of this important programme. The farming community has particular needs and this service has been very effective in providing healthcare in settings that suit farming families. The programme is also an excellent example of what can be achieved through partnership working.”

The health checks programme is delivered by the Northern Trust, jointly funded by the Public Health Agency and DAERA and provides a thorough physical and mental health screening to farmers who visit the 28 livestock markets across Northern Ireland. The mobile health check unit also attends selected agri-food and community events in rural areas.

Oscar Donnelly, Director of Mental Health, Learning Disability and Community Planning with the Northern Trust, said ‘Today marks an important milestone in recognising how much of an impact Farm Families has had on the rural community and the huge benefit to be gained from bringing health initiatives to those hard to reach communities. I would like to thank DAERA, PHA and the other stakeholders for their support which has been fundamental to the ongoing success and continuing development of the programme’

Valerie Watts, Interim Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency, said: “It is great to see that the Farm Families programme has achieved another significant milestone.The health check addresses issues from high blood pressure and high cholesterol to identifying where there may be a risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as providing support for people’s mental health.”

At the conclusion of the check, the nurse will offer tailored lifestyle advice based on the individual’s needs which can include an individual being advised to see their GP or referred to other agencies as appropriate. A follow up phone call is provided to all clients who have been asked to see their GP to encourage those who haven’t made an appointment to do so, or to reinforce health messages.

Minister Poots said: “The Farm Families Health Checks Programme is making a significant impact across Northern Ireland. The Programme is now in its 8th year and has screened the physical and mental health and well-being of 20,000 individuals since 2012, primarily farmers, farm workers and farm family members attending marts and community events. I’ve spoken to many people today who have taken part in this programme and I’m encouraged by how beneficial people have found it.”

Minister Poots continued: “I would encourage farmers, rural dwellers and agricultural workers to take advantage of the health check opportunity when, in the future, the screening vehicle visits a market, an agri-food venue, or a community event near them. This unique and detailed health check has, and will continue to, have life changing impacts for rural dwellers.”

6th February 2020

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