Ten years of postgraduate Agricultural Health and Medicine training

  • Jack and Lisa Wieske
    Jack and Lisa Wieske
  • Agricultural Health and Medicine course participants
    Agricultural Health and Medicine course participants

Photos: National Centre for Farmer Health

Jacquie Cotton
National Centre for Farmer Health

Australia’s only postgraduate agricultural health and medicine unit is about to enter its tenth year.  

The internationally recognised, multi-disciplinary course equips health providers, rural professionals and our farming communities with the knowledge and skills to address the high morbidity and mortality rates of people working the agricultural industry. To date, over 170 professionals working in agriculture, medicine, allied health, and nursing from across Australia, New Zealand, India, Indonesia and the UK have undertaken the unit.

The National Centre for Farmer Health also celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. Since its establishment it has engaged over 5,000 farmers, farm workers and their families. Founding Director, Professor Susan Brumby says:

“We know that a healthy workforce is vital for a productive agricultural industry, and through the work of the NCFH, we have learnt that farming families and their communities face poorer health outcomes than their urban counterparts. Agricultural workers have a high rate of injuries including fatalities and suffer chronic diseases at high rates.”

To celebrate 10 years of making a difference to farmer’s lives, over $15,000 worth of scholarships is being offered to support students studying the HMF701. Scholarships are offered in three categories: Open/multidisciplinary; Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander; and Veterinary, Psychology or Optometry professionals. Applications are now open and close on 14 October 2018.

The five-day-intensive Agricultural Health and Medicine unit (HMF701) is offered through Deakin University, School of Medicine and the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH), and will be held from 25 February to 1 March 2019 in Hamilton, western Victoria. Course topics cover a broad range of health, safety and wellbeing issues ranging from mental illness and addiction through to emergency medicine, agrichemicals, zoonotic disease  and agricultural trauma.

Albany couple Jack and Lisa Wieske, who both work as health professionals in rural Western Australia while living on a working cattle property, completed the course on a scholarship. Both say the skills they learnt have changed their ability to assist farmers improve health outcomes.

Jack, who is a clinical nurse, now provides health assessments for farmers to give them a snapshot of their overall health and well-being.

“To perform these assessments, we need to be qualified as a Registered Nurse but it is also a requirement for us to have completed this course,” he said.

“The course gave me a different view of health, focusing on primary care, or preventative health care, so that we were no longer dealing with the problems when they were at such a level that we were unable to reverse matters.”

For Lisa, completing the course allowed her to understand the specific health issues relating to those working in agriculture.

“I was working in haemodialysis nursing and was becoming aware of higher incidence of farmers and rural people ending up on dialysis due to chronic disease,” she said.

“I wanted to become more proactive in the prevention of chronic diseases and to promote farm safety, and this course gave me the knowledge and skill so do this.”

She said she believed she was now making a significant difference to the health and wellbeing of farmers in the Albany region.

“Whether I’m encouraging a farmer to look after his or her health through health assessments, or chatting about the everyday stresses of farming, I feel like I’m making a difference to the people in our area,” she said.

The HMF701 unit can be completed as a stand-alone unit, and has been accredited for professional development points in areas of medicine, veterinary science, social work, paramedics and nursing. with selected health professionals eligible to become accredited AgriSafe™ providers.

For more information about the course and how you can get involved, contact Dr Jacquie Cotton, Lecturer Rural Health at NCFH on 03 5551 8533 [email protected] or visit http://www.farmerhealth.org.au. Course details are also available at http://www.deakin.edu.au


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