Mobile Health Check Unit Visits Fermanagh Farmers In Rural Areas

The Farm Families Health van rolled into Belcoo during their latest visit to Fermanagh to seek out farm family members from rural areas for a series of check-ups, from blood pressure to diabetic risk scoring.

The programme has just celebrated its 10th anniversary this year and over the past decade has identified early diagnosis of various ailments in people who spent most of their time working in rural areas such as farming.

Nurse Helen McAuley (with Nurse Sharon McAllister at rear) with Alex Cromie, from the Rural Support Plough On project, during a visit by the Farm Families Health van to Belcoo

The mobile facility – staffed by two qualified nurses – regularly visits livestock marts, agricultural shows and events, rural sports clubs and other community organisations.

Last week, nurses from the mobile health check van carried out health checks on members of the Rural Support Plough On project based in Belcoo.

This is a project for male farmers over 65 years old who are perhaps less active on their farms and not getting out as much as before.

During monthly meetings of Plough On, they have an opportunity to meet up with others over a cup of tea and can attend various activities relating to farming, rural heritage and history.

Nurse Helen McAuley explained that the van visiting Belcoo was their latest vehicle launched earlier this year to tour the roads of Northern Ireland with updated equipment on board such as battery-operated machines rather than being powered by generators, as well as being installed with solar panels to help offset electricity supply.

Health checks carried out for each patient includes blood pressure checks, cholesterol levels, diabetic risk, HbA1c diabetic checks, weight and body mass index checks, as well as mental wellbeing.

Helen explained that one of the health trends emerging in recent years has been the increased risk of diabetes.

In the UK as a whole, there has been a 67 per cent increase in diabetic diagnosis, attributed to diet and lifestyle.

This is usually blamed on the consumption of too much sweet and sugary foods, and eating processed foods. Smoking and alcohol consumption also play a part.

Nurses also offer skincare advice to farmers, who spend a significant amount of time outdoors during the summer season, as well as discussing family health histories. In Northern Ireland, there has been a big increase in skin cancers.

If nurses from the programme identify health risks, these are referred to the patients’ GPs for further analysis.

Nurse Sharon McAllister taking the blood pressure of a local farmer in Belcoo

The HbA1c is a measure of how well diabetes is being controlled.

Patients at risk from diabetes are given a leaflet indicating that the blood test showed blood sugar levels were slightly above the normal range.

However, those patients can be offered a place on the new Diabetes Prevention Programme for NI to help them reduce the chance of getting diabetes.

Once on the programme, patients receive help on healthy habits and learning about new activities as part of a group.

The Farm Families Health Checks programme also assist with patients completing a diabetes risk score by answering a series of questions such as age, gender, ethnic background, family history with diabetes, waist circumference, Body Mass Index and whether blood pressure has been diagnosed. The resultant score will determine where the patient is on the risk level of diabetes.

The health checks are divided into two parts, a medical assessment and a lifestyle assessment. The medical assessment, lasting between 10 and 15 minutes, is based on the various checks outlined above, while the lifestyle assessment over about 10 minutes, will include advice on smoking, healthy eating, physical exercise and alcohol consumption.

Nurses can signpost patients to various services that are available to them.

(Source – Impartial Reporter – Farming – Brian Donaldson – 20/11/2022)

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Rural Enterprise Skillnet
Rural Enterprise Skillnet

The Rural Enterprise Skillnet is funded by member companies and the Training Networks Programme, an initiative of Skillnets Ltd. funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Education and Skills.

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