Be The Dif­fer­ence As A Med­i­cal Pro­fes­sional

Glen Bla­hey, Cana­dian Agri­cul­tural Safety As­so­ci­a­tion

The Glengarry News - Glengarry Supplement - - News -


only do farm­ers face the po­ten­tial for in­jury on the farm, they are also at risk for ill­ness. Farm­ers face ill­nesses re­lated to live­stock, grain and chem­i­cals and this ex­po­sure doesn’t stop at the end of the work­day – farm­ers also live in their work­place. It’s this ex­po­sure to the work­place 24 hours a day, seven days a week that can cre­ate spe­cific health and safety con­cerns for farm­ers and their fam­i­lies. Med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als like doc­tors, nurse prac­ti­tion­ers and men­tal health work­ers have a sig­nif­i­cant role to play in the health and safety of Canada’s farm­ers. These pro­fes­sion­als are uniquely po­si­tioned to be farm health and safety cham­pi­ons.

Ac­cess to health care in ru­ral ar­eas can be lim­ited. Of­ten­times farm­ers and their fam­i­lies have to travel a great dis­tance to ac­cess even pri­mary care. In many ru­ral ar­eas there is a chronic short­age of health care providers. These are a few of the bar­ri­ers that farm­ers and their fam­i­lies face when ad­dress­ing health con­cerns. So what can health care pro­fes­sion­als do to be farm health and safety cham­pi­ons?

First of all, it’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that in­jury preven­tion is the most im­por­tant part of farm safety. That means that ill­ness preven­tion is the most im­por­tant part of keep­ing farm­ers and farm fam­i­lies healthy. Ef­fec­tive health care of farm­ers and their fam­i­lies in­cludes a fo­cus on per­sonal health, well­be­ing and ill­ness preven­tion as well as treat­ing ill­nesses and symp­toms. Med­i­cal pro­fes­sion­als are of­ten per­ceived as au­thor­ity fig­ures with great knowl­edge. In­for­ma­tion about health and safety means a great deal when com­ing from some­one who is trusted and knowl­edge­able.

Un­der­stand­ing the unique health and safety is­sues of farm life is another means of keep­ing farm fam­i­lies healthy and safe. Farm­ers work with and around a va­ri­ety of haz­ards. Live­stock can cause ill­nesses like sal­mo­nella and in­fluenza; over-ex­po­sure to crop pro­tec­tion prod­ucts can re­sult in health is­sues rang­ing from cholinesterase sup­pres­sion to headaches and di­ar­rhea; grain han­dling can ex­pose farm­ers to Han­tavirus and res­pi­ra­tory im­pair­ments. Phys­i­cal haz­ards are just one piece of the many health and safety con­cerns that farm fam­i­lies can have.

Other health and safety con­cerns can in­clude risk-tak­ing be­hav­iours, men­tal-health is­sues, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity and the man­age­ment of chronic dis­eases. Ask­ing about these haz­ards and con­cerns at ap­point­ments can lead to dis­cus­sion of preven­tion and man­age­ment tac­tics or to a quicker and more ac­cu­rate di­ag­no­sis of symp­toms. Speak­ing the same lan­guage as farm­ers and their fam­i­lies is also an im­por­tant part of be­ing a farm safety and health cham­pion. For ex­am­ple, un­der­stand­ing what an auger or silo or chaff are can cre­ate a con­nec­tion and pro­vide an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the day-to-day lives of farm fam­i­lies. This also can give health care pro­fes­sion­als an in­sight into the va­ri­ety of haz­ards faced by farm­ers and their fam­i­lies.

Lastly, ad­vo­cat­ing for the health and safety of farm fam­i­lies within the health care field is one of the best ways health care pro­fes­sion­als can be farm safety cham­pi­ons. Farm safety and health cham­pi­ons help keep those who grow our food healthy and safe and this, in turn, keeps our so­ci­ety healthy and food­se­cure.

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