Farm Families celebrates 25,000 milestone

Health Minister Robin Swann marks the 25,000th Farm Families client at the Balmoral Show

The Farm Families Health Checks Programme, which offers on-the-spot health checks to rural communities through a mobile unit attending marts and community-based events, has marked the 25,000th client to avail of the service at this year’s Balmoral Show.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) partners with the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to develop and co-fund this programme, and it has been successfully delivered by the Northern Trust since March 2012 to help improve the health and social wellbeing of farmers and farm families across Northern Ireland.

Health Minister Robin Swann said: “The Farm Families Health Checks Programme has proven to be an invaluable service for rural communities, as evidence has shown that the farming community can be particularly susceptible to poor health and wellbeing. Hazards associated with farm work include accidents, stress and mental health problems, and musculoskeletal disorders, so by having an easily-accessible service which can be located in these communities and at markets means people can get health and wellbeing support on the ground. Partnership working is at the forefront of the service which has contributed to the success of the programme.”

DAERA Minister Andrew Muir said: “The Farm Families Health Checks Programme was established to provide access to health screening services with the aim of improving the health and wellbeing of farmers, farm family members and rural dwellers. Through this Programme my Department, in conjunction with partners, wish to make accessing this established and trusted mobile service as accessible as possible by bringing it to rural venues that facilitate the needs of rural people. I am delighted to be here today to celebrate the milestone achievement of the 25,000th person to have a Health Check performed. I look forward to the continuation of this excellent partnership programme which is delivered by the Northern Trust and jointly funded by DAERA, through its Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) Programme and the Public Health Agency.”

Aidan Dawson, Chief Executive of the PHA, said: “Tackling health inequalities together is really important, and we know rural communities experience real challenges in accessing health and wellbeing support due to their isolation and the pressure of work, so the Farm Families Health Checks Programme was created as an innovative way to go to where farming families already are, making it as convenient as possible to access health checks and advice. Over the past 12 years it has helped thousands of families, and I want to congratulate the dedicated staff on reaching their 25,000th client.”

The health assessment provided by the programme includes blood pressure and cholesterol checks, diabetes and heart attack risk assessments, BMI measurement, and blood sugar testing if required. Support and signposting will also be offered around maintaining good mental health and on mental health conditions. In addition, individual lifestyle advice is given on a range of health issues, and onward referral completed to local support services as required, including GPs, Rural Support, and dieticians.

There are more than 25,000 farms throughout Northern Ireland, with more than 30,000 farmers registered as working on these farms, and an additional 11,000 registered agricultural workers.