Farming is at the heart of many rural communities, including the Hutterite settlements in eastern South Dakota. The Hutterites are Anabaptists and share common roots with the Amish and Mennonites. They live communally in rural colonies of about 15 families and use modern technology to farm and produce goods. A grant from the University of Iowa Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health helped fund a farm safety outreach project tailored specifically to the Hutterite community.
The Avera St. Benedict Health Center in Parkston, S.D., has been providing health care services to the Hutterites for many years, and has established mobile clinic visits to the colonies. About two years ago, the St. Benedict medical staff noticed that the members of several colonies were receiving emergency/trauma care for agricultural injuries with increasing frequency. St. Benedict staff designed an outreach program, Safe Farming, Safe Living, to increase the awareness of farm hazards and to promote safe work practices among eight Hutterite colonies.
“The Hutterites are not only our patients, but our neighbors and community members,” says Melissa Gale, a behavioral health provider with the mobile clinic. “After seeing some of the injuries, we approached them with the idea [for a safety program] and there was overwhelming support from the colonies. Since agriculture is their staple way to earn a living, they are invested in learning and keeping each other safe.”
Financial support was provided by the Great Plains Center with organizational support from local agribusiness representatives and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks. The program held several events throughout the colonies in schools, dining halls, a machine shed, and even a butcher shop.
Emphasis was placed on developing and delivering culturally appropriate safety and health education that would be accessible to all colony members, regardless of age or language. Because younger children in the colony speak only German, local pre-school teachers participated as interpreters.
“Our strong relationship with the colony members through health care outreach allowed us to be welcomed to the colonies,” adds Gale. “The kids and adults truly engaged in learning and were open minded to trying and following the safety practices.”
The program reached more than 450 participants, and no major life-threatening agricultural injuries have been treated at the health center since the program began in 2015.
Farmers and other outdoor workers face hot and humid conditions in the summer, but they can take steps to prevent sun burns and heat stress. Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH) and the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health (GPCAH) have launched a seasonal awareness campaign on skin cancer and heat stress. The campaign includes a poster and radio spots to help spread the word.
Skin Cancer Prevention
Preventing Heat Stress
The Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health will host Agricultural Medicine: Occupational and Environmental Health for Rural Health Professionals, June 8-12, 2015, at the University of Iowa. The course is designed to provide the information and skills needed to enable safety and health professionals to anticipate, recognize, and prevent occupational illnesses and injuries among members of the agricultural community.
There will also be an open house to meet leaders in rural and agricultural health on Monday, June 8, from 4-6 p.m. at the College of Public Health.
The course is appropriate for safety and health managers, physicians, nurses, veterinarians, graduate students, and anyone interested in the unique safety and health needs of rural and agricultural communities. The course includes classroom instruction, farm tours, safety and rescue demonstrations, and a networking reception. Topics to be discussed include agricultural injury, pesticide exposures and associated health effects, occupational diseases of the lungs in agricultural settings, livestock production, transportation hazards, behavioral and emotional health, zoonotic disease, ergonomics, cancer among agricultural workers, and many others. Continuing education and academic credits are available.
The Iowa Department of Public Health – State Office of Rural Health is providing scholarships to pay the registration fees for two Iowa health care providers to attend the training.
A course brochure and scholarship application are available at http://cph.uiowa.edu/gpcah/education/iowa-ag-med-course.
Online registration is available at https://www.continuetolearn.uiowa.edu/UIConferences.
For more information, contact Kay Mohling at 319-335-4219 or email@example.com.
A new report by UI College of Public Health investigators sheds light on the more than 200 agriculture-related deaths per year that occur in Midwestern states, confirming that farming remains one of the nation’s most dangerous industries and poses particular risks to vulnerable populations such as elderly workers.
The goal of the report, sponsored by the UI Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health, is to facilitate access to agricultural fatality information for anyone interested in agricultural safety and health. The full report and an accompanying slide show are available at: http://cph.uiowa.edu/gpcah/center-projects/surveillance-of-agricultural-injuries-and-fatalities/.
Researchers Amanda Swanton, Tracy Young, Corinne Peek-Asa, Marizen Ramirez, and Fred Gerr studied 1,858 agriculture-related deaths that occurred between 2005 and 2012 in 12 Midwestern states, including Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin.
“Numerous hazards threaten farm workers including exposure to machinery, livestock, chemicals, noise, and physical stress, which can be compounded by the fact that agricultural activities are often performed in rural environments with limited access to medical services,” the authors explain.
Over the period reviewed, there were on average 232 agriculture-related fatalities per year in the Midwest region, an annual rate of 19.94 agriculture-related deaths per 100,000 farm operators. This compares with an overall rate of 3.4 fatal work injuries per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers across all industries in 2012.
The researchers also report that agriculture-related fatalities increase with age. Over three-quarters (77%) of agriculture-related deaths occurred among persons 45 years or older, and 41% occurred in individuals 65 and older. Less than 3% of agriculture-related fatalities occurred among minors less than 16 years old.
Other findings include:
- Agriculture-related fatality is much more commonly experienced by males than females. Of the 1,858 total agriculture-related deaths studied, 95% occurred in males while only 5% occurred in females.
- More than half (51.6%) of individuals who died due to an agriculture-related injury were performing a vehicle- or transportation-related task at the time of the incident. Of these 958 fatalities, 315, or 33%, were due to farm vehicle (e.g. tractor) rollovers.
- Agriculture-related fatalities are most frequent from late spring to early fall. The greatest number of deaths occurred in July (13%), while the lowest number of deaths occurred in December (4%).
- Fatalities most often occurred within 24 hours of the inciting injury, however deaths occurring after 24 hours were more frequent with increasing age. The fact that some older individuals do not die immediately of their injuries suggests that there may be an opportunity for medical intervention to potentially save these lives, however further research is needed.
The Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health hosted the workshop “Building Capacity: A National Resource of Agricultural Medicine Professionals” Jan. 14-15 at the UI College of Public Health. The attendees included six partners from Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, and Vermont who teach the agricultural health and safety course called Agricultural Medicine: The Core Course.
“The development of the course was supported by the Great Plains Center through a consensus process with our partners and other leaders in agricultural safety and health,” says Diane Rohlman, associate professor of occupational and environmental health and one of the center’s project leaders. “The University of Iowa has long been recognized as a global leader in agricultural safety and health education.”
Since 2007 the course has been offered 26 times in eight states, as well as in Australia and Turkey. More than 600 students have completed the course, primarily health care providers (physicians, nurses/nurse practitioners, physician assistants), veterinarians, medical students and public health graduate students, and health and safety professionals including Extension, safety managers, producers, and county public health workers.
Agricultural medicine is a specialty of the broader field of occupational safety and health that is targeted towards an interdisciplinary audience of rural health and safety professionals. While those professionals are a key link in delivering occupational health and safety services to the agricultural community, they generally do not receive adequate training, a need this course addresses.
The workshop was held to discuss course revisions and identify approaches to ensure sustainability. Based on a review in 2012, the center revised the curriculum to:
- meet the needs of the center’s current and target population: people who engage with and protect agricultural populations;
- emphasize safety and injury prevention in the curriculum and provide practical approaches for controlling hazards;
- add greater cultural relevance (both national and global perspectives);
- include new/emerging issues and topics (such as rural roadway safety, ATVs, mechanization); and
- incorporate more active learning – case studies, field trips, hands on activities.