AN alliance has been proposed to establish a cohesive, centralised body to support the health and wellbeing of those working in the Irish agri sector, and their families.
An online showcase aimed at creating a new National Farmer Health Alliance will be held on Thursday, September 16th. A range of relevant stakeholders and agencies are set to take part in the half-day event.
It will be opened by Martin Heydon, Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, who has special responsibility for farm safety.
It will feature keynote international speakers specialising in supporting farmer wellbeing, namely Alison Kennedy, senior research fellow with the National Centre for Farmer Health at Deakin University, Australia, and Philippe Roy, adjunct professor at the University of Sherbrooke’s School of Social Work in Québec, Canada, whose work on farming men’s mental health has received many distinctions.
The initiative took root during discussions involving the Men’s Development Network and a range of stakeholders in the new farm advisor health training programme ‘On Feírm Ground’ (part of Engage Training Programme).
This also led to the European Innovation Project ‘FarmConnect’, to be piloted in Waterford and Roscommon in 2022.
‘It was a natural extension of the work we were doing across these projects around key themes affecting farmers’ health and wellbeing,’ explains Men’s Development Network CEO Seán Cooke. ‘Research shows agriculture is disproportionately impacted by health issues, both physical and mental, compared to other sectors. Farming also has the highest rate of fatalities of any sector nationally.
‘However, local and national efforts to encourage farmers to mind their health have suffered from the lack of a centralised, joined-up approach.
‘This is an opportunity to finally provide that coherence and bring about big changes for the better for farmers, their families, and rural communities.’
Attendees can freely visit a range of exhibition ‘booths’ hosted by pioneering projects focused on improving health, safety and wellbeing in the agricultural sector and rural communities generally
Seán added: ‘We want to foster a meeting of minds and real engagement among the plethora of bodies and organisations who, through various programmes and initiatives, are encouraging farmers to think and act in a more holistic, health-conscious way.’
Once established, it’s envisaged the alliance will serve as a central information hub and fulcrum for farmer-specific health and wellbeing awareness campaigns, research, and policy advocacy.