Speaking at Tuesday’s conference on farmers’ health at Teagasc Oak Park, Prof Brumby drew several parallels between the health of farmers in Ireland and in Australia. In both countries, they are older than the general population and tend to go see the doctor later than other people when they have a complaint.
“We do have a health safety net, but it’s not always easy to access because of distance and pressure to keep the family farm going even when the farmer is sick,” she said.
What farming people really value is people who can walk in their shoes, who know the industry
The National Centre for Farmer Health works to remedy this situation by involving farmers and other members of the agricultural industry. It runs farmer health training sessions for a range of professionals, from agricultural advisers to feed merchants, and raises awareness through community events such as fun runs.
“What farming people really value is people who can walk in their shoes, who know the industry,” said Prof Brumby, who has lived on a sheep farm herself. However, she warned of the risk that people familiar with farming might reinforce stereotypes the wrong type of message, such as “She'll be all right, mate”, or “It's just a flesh wound.” This is where the National Centre for Farmer Health steps in.
Listen to an interview with Prof Brumby in our podcast below:
Listen to "Australian farmer health specialist Susan Brumby" on Spreaker.
The centre’s most advanced programme, Sustainable Farm Families, targets groups of farmers through industry bodies such as farming organisations. When an organisation and its farmer members are ready to enter the programme, the centre runs a four-day initial training programme with them.
They then go back to everyday farming with an objective of monitoring and improving health as part of their regular performance measurement, in a way that is adapted to each farming group – think of it as a column for farmers’ blood pressure or stress levels next to milk solids in a dairy profit monitor.
Some 2,600 Australian farmers have joined Sustainable Farm Families to date.
Focus on heart disease in farmer health research