A significant milestone was reached today when the highly popular Farm Families Health Checks Programme celebrated its 20,000th health screening.
Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Minister, Edwin Poots MLA, attended the event at Ballymena Mart alongside his Executive colleague and Minister for Health, Robin Swann MLA, who both received their own health check.
Minister Poots said: “The Farm Families Health Checks Programme is making a significant impact across Northern Ireland. The Programme is now in its 8th year and has screened the physical and mental health and well-being of 20,000 individuals since 2012, primarily farmers, farm workers and farm family members attending marts and community events. I’ve spoken to many people today who have taken part in this programme and I’m encouraged by how beneficial people have found it.”
The health checks programme is a Northern Ireland-wide initiative jointly funded by DAERA and the Public Health Agency and provides a thorough physical and mental health screening to farmers who visit the 28 livestock markets across the region.
The mobile health check unit also attends selected agri-food and community events in rural areas.
Minister Swann said: “Today’s 20,000th health check demonstrates the success of this important programme. The farming community has particular needs and this service has been very effective in providing healthcare in settings that suit farming families.
“The programme is also an excellent example of what can be achieved through partnership working.”
Valerie Watts, Interim Chief Executive of the Public Health Agency, said: “It is great to see that the Farm Families programme has achieved another significant milestone.
“The health check addresses issues from high blood pressure and high cholesterol to identifying where there may be a risk of type 2 diabetes, as well as providing support for people’s mental health.”
At the conclusion of the check, the nurse will offer tailored lifestyle advice based on the individual’s needs, which can include an individual being advised to see their GP or referred to other agencies as appropriate.
Minister Poots continued: “I would encourage farmers, rural dwellers and agricultural workers to take advantage of the health check opportunity when, in the future, the screening vehicle visits a market, an agri-food venue, or a community event near them. This unique and detailed health check has, and will continue to, have life changing impacts for rural dwellers.”
One person who underwent a health check recently said: “This service is excellent and highly professional delivered at venues that are convenient for us as we don’t visit doctor’s surgeries regularly.”
The Ballymena event was timely as plans emerge for a joint plan of action to be developed by both DAERA and the Department of Health aimed at tackling the concerning issues of rural isolation and loneliness which also effects the agricultural community.