Wim­mera med­i­cal in­put for ser­vice

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY COLIN MACGILLIVR­AY

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.

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