The increase in digital literacy, coupled with the healthcare industry’s innovation in creating user-friendly, useful health and wellbeing digital platforms, has opened doors for our rural and remote communities to access new healthcare resources across Australia.
Fast to adapt to this changing space is the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH). Based in Hamilton in the Western District of Victoria, the NCFH opened their doors in 2008. Over the past 13 years the NCFH has conducted numerous research, education and service delivery initiatives, seeking to improve the health, wellbeing and safety of farmers, agricultural workers, farming families and rural communities. In translating these findings into online resources, the NCFH helps address the health inequality traditionally experienced by rural and remote Australians.
To empower farmers and increase personal awareness of health, wellbeing and safety, the NCFH created the free online platform Farmer Health Assessment Tool. Farmer HAT, as it is affectionately known, is a simple online form that can be used by individuals or farming groups. Questions relate to health, wellbeing, lifestyle behaviours and farm safety practices. Instant results are generated using a traffic light system. Farmer HAT is easy to use, gives practical tips for improving the personal health, wellbeing and safety of the user and can be completed from the comfort of their own home.
Farming and agricultural work can be isolating, with large amounts of time spent working solo and a range of factors presenting risks to mental health. To help improve the mental health, safety and wellbeing of farmers in their workplace, the NCFH have co-designed (with farmers and industry) an online interactive platform called Campfire. Campfire is a text-based platform that invites anyone in the agricultural industry to join the conversation every Wednesday night, where topic experts and farmers share practical knowledge, resources and experience. It is a place to connect, learn and develop an understanding of various topics relating to life on the farm. The format offers attendees the anonymity to ask questions and discuss topics they may not feel confident discussing otherwise. Topics covered range from preparing for the fire season, succession planning, working effectively in a family business and child safety on the farm. Campfire topics are also covered by a growing number of podcasts, blogs and hard copy resources available on the landing page.
Steering Straight: My plan to stay on track
Farmers often get bogged down in the endless cycle of farming tasks, rarely taking time to turn their focus from the wellbeing of the farm business to what supports their own wellbeing.
Steering Straight is a resource that has been developed in collaboration with members of the farming community. It aims to help farmers look beyond the endless cycle of tasks and help with reflection, planning for the challenges ahead and preparing for action, with a focus on wellbeing. Available in a digital form or as part of the Managing Stress on the Farm booklet, Steering Straight offers individuals a guided assessment and action plan that they can complete, keep as a handy reference and update as required.
For more information about the National Centre for Farmer Health and the work they do, you can check out their website www.farmerhealth.org.au.