Friday, 09 June 2017 09:55

A fresh take on farmers’ health

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RHAANZ chief executive Michelle Thompson says her organisation is backing the Fieldays Health Hub. RHAANZ chief executive Michelle Thompson says her organisation is backing the Fieldays Health Hub.

Rural health will be a new feature of this year’s Fieldays.

The Fieldays Health Hub, an interactive display, will inform and educate visitors about health issues affecting rural communities.

“Farmers don’t always have the opportunity to get off the farm and get their health checks,” says Lee Picken, Fieldays head of events.

“This new site will be a great place for health professionals to start that conversation.”

Mobile Health is a key partner in the Fieldays Health Hub, and its surgical bus will be a cornerstone of the site.

“We want to engage with rural people about health and make a difference,” says Mark Eager, general manager of Mobile Health.

“The idea is to get a lot of like-minded health organisations together, start conversations and change how rural people think about health.”

During Fieldays, visitors can enter the Mobile Health surgical bus and watch a mock surgery being done.

For ten months of the year the bus travels the country, from Kaikohe to Balclutha, doing scheduled day surgeries in small towns and rural centres. It works with district health boards and local nurses to give rural people better access to surgery.

Rural Health Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) is backing the Fieldays Health Hub. RHAANZ chief executive Michelle Thompson says rural people are getting second-best healthcare.

“Of the scant data that exists, we know the health outcomes for rural people are poorer than for urban people. Agriculture and tourism are the power base of the NZ economy so it makes good economic sense for the Government to focus on the people supporting the rural economy.”

Thompson estimates about 600,000 people live rurally between Cape Reinga and Bluff. 

“That population number as a city would make it NZ’s second-largest, yet it doesn’t feel like the rural sector gets that level of attention to health.”

People who have poor access to healthcare or who delay seeking treatment may find their condition gets worse.

Thompson says the barriers to good health are varied: lack of GPs and aged-care workers in some rural areas, limited access to healthcare screenings or treatment due to geographic isolation, embarrassment or difficulty talking about symptoms, and work pressures (hard to ‘take time away’ from the farm) especially during busy seasons or if short-staffed.

“We want all rural people to be healthy and well, and the best way is equitable access for all to health services,” Thompson says.

Evidence suggests cancer impacts the rural community at a higher rate than the national average, she says.

Proposed for the health site is a giant inflatable bowel from Bowel Cancer NZ. Large enough for people to walk through, the oversized exhibit will be fun and educational, and will give key health information.

Free at the Fieldays Health Hub will be 10-minute talks by expert speakers; these ‘MED Talks’ are inspired by the popular ‘TED Talks’ concept.

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