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New Booklet “Staying Fit for Farming” Targets Farmer Health!

A new Health booklet entitled ‘Staying Fit for Farming’ will be circulated nationally to farmers on Thursday, 23rd January as an insert in the Irish Farmers Journal. The booklet aims to promote enhanced health practices among farmers nationally.

Production of the booklet follows alarming research by HSE medical consultant in public health, Dr Breda Smyth M.D. which indicates that farmers have much higher death rates than other groups in the occupational age range of 15 to 64. The research found that the death rate of farmers was over 5 times higher than salaried employees, who had the lowest death rate.

Farmers have particularly high death rates from circulatory diseases, cancers, injuries and poisonings. Research for preparation of the booklet was directed by Dr Noel Richardson, Director of the Centre for Men’s Health at Carlow Institute of Technology. This involved both farmer interviews and focus groups to explore farmer’s attitudes and practices which are key determinants of health behaviour.

The booklet has been written specifically for farmers and reflects what farmers and a range of farm organisations regard as the key health issues affecting farmers. It outlines some simple steps that farmers can take to protect and improve their health. Farmers should read, act on and keep this booklet as reference material so that they can look after their health.

The partners involved in developing this booklet including HSE, FBD, HSA & Teagasc all agree that acting on the advice in ‘Staying Fit for Farming’ is a win-win for farmers and their families. Dr Richardson stated that the perception that ‘farming is a healthy occupation’ due to it being an outdoor occupation involving physical exercise is challenged by the research data. Farmers, in common with men worldwide, need to take more active steps to maintain and improve health.

Dr Richardson stated that paying greater attention to practical health messages in the booklet could lead to major progress with improving farmers’ health. He added that ‘case studies’ have been used in the booklet to indicate the consequences of ill health and actions required to maintain or enhance health’.

Mr Patrick Griffin, Senior Inspector with the Health and Safety Authority with responsibility for the agriculture sector, stated that international research links poor health with increased accident levels, so improving or maintaining your health will have the added benefit of reducing your risk of having a serious farm accident.

Mr John McNamara, Teagasc Health and Safety Officer, stated that health is a vital personal attribute for both quality of life and to farm successfully. National Farm Survey research indicates that poor health is associated with an average income reduction of 15%, but in individual cases the reduction can be much greater.

The booklet will be circulated nationally through the Irish Farmers Journal and will be available from Teagasc, HSA, HSE and FBD websites and offices.