Wimmera medical input for service
Wimmera doctors are at the forefront of an Australiawide service designed to help improve the health of farm workers.
Doctors from the region have collaborated with Western Victoria Primary Health Network to write a rural health chapter for Healthpathways.
Healthpathways is a web-based information system that GPS and other health professionals access to search for symptoms, advice on clinical treatment and pathways, and specialist referrals.
‘Local doctors for local health services’ write the information available on Healthpathways.
Wimmera doctors helped write the first rural chapter of the service,
which focuses specifically on improving health outcomes for agricultural workers.
A launch for the rural health chapter was at Horsham’s Baa 3400 restaurant.
About 30 health professionals from across the region attended the event.
A panel discussion involved Western Victoria Primary Health Network chief executive Dr Leanne Beagley; The Naked Farmer, Ben Brooksby; fifth-generation Wimmera farmer Rohan Gunning; National Centre of Farmer Health director professor Susan Brumby; and Dr Kate Graham, a Horsham GP involved in writing the rural health chapter.
Dr Beagley said the chapter would make interactions between farmers and doctors much smoother.
“We initiated the rural health pathways in western Victoria because of the unique environments agricultural workers work in and the unique challenges they have from a health point of view,” she said.
“Sometimes you have doctors who come out and have no idea of the context and environment that agricultural workers are working in.
“These are a set of pages about rural health that are specifically about farmers and the challenges they face, so GPS and health professionals know to look for something outside the usual.”
Dr Beagley said the new chapter also dealt with mental-health issues.
“Across the community, mental health is particularly a problem for farmers,” she said.
“We want to turn that around, and that’s what the Rural Health pages are doing.”
Dr Beagley said a dialogue between health professionals and farmers while the chapter was being written helped fill some knowledge gaps.
“Ben Brooksby said a real gap was that when he was struggling with things, he didn’t know where to go, who to talk to or how to find someone to help,” she said.
“One of the insights for me was that the farmers said if someone is taking time off to go to a show or Sheepvention or something, that’s the time to get them to do their health checks.
“Often farmers will put their own health last, so it’s important to have them set aside some time when they’ve already taken a day out of their normal farming schedule to do health checks.
“There was some really great advice for us from the farmers that we can continue to insert into these chapters as we continue to edit and improve them.”
Dr Beagley said the work done by Wimmera GPS and the Western Victoria PHN would benefit farmers across Australia as well as the region.
“Someone asked me, ‘have you done this because there are more problems in this area?’ and I said, ‘no, we’re doing this because we’ve got the solutions’. It’s great to see the Wimmera area leading the nation in writing these up and getting them out,” she said.