RECENT evaluation findings show that the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH) responded to change through the COVID-19 pandemic with significant agility—working productively and collaboratively with partners to deliver services that were highly regarded by the farming community.
This demonstrated ability to adapt to changing circumstances and demands has kept farmers involved with vital health services throughout the global pandemic, and helps shape future plans to build on increased engagement and service delivery offerings, NCFH Director, Dr. Alison Kennedy said.
“I am incredibly proud to lead a dedicated team of farmer health specialists who bring a range of skills and an incredibly important understanding of farming life and work to their roles at the Centre. Their passion and dedication meant that we have been able to adapt, improve and continue to deliver meaningful and tailored support to our farming communities—in spite of Covid challenges.”
Victorian Labor Government’s Delivering for Regional and Rural Victoria Program injected $4 million over four years to NCFH, delivering on its 2018 election commitment and contributing to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Advancement Output.
This funding, which continues until mid-2023, helped put farmers’ health on the agenda.
The recent evaluation also found that for every Government dollar invested, NCFH demonstrated an average return of $17.26 for their Health and Lifestyle Assessments (free 20-minute health check), $13.78 for AgriSafe ClinicsTM (free comprehensive 90-minute health check program), and $67.10 for Farmer HAT (a free online health self-assessment tool).
Cost savings to society as a result of screening, prevention, and early intervention programs like the HLAs and AgriSafe program alone is projected to be $10.9 million over 10 years, and $216,361 over 10 years in Government cost savings.
“Throughout this latest funding period, NCFH raised an additional $1.13 for every core funding dollar invested by the Government and despite increased challenges faced by the farming and healthcare workforce during COVID-19, the NCFH has achieved substantial growth,” Dr. Kennedy said.
“The Centre, based in Hamilton, directly supports 19 staff members and works collaboratively to support the work of numerous contract staff and health service partners across Victoria and nationally. This extends our reach to a wide network of farmers through our Health and Lifestyle Assessments and AgriSafeTM Clinics, our education and training programs such as our secondary student farm safety program Gear up for AgTM, and programs such as Campfire which focus on reducing mental health risks for farmers.”
Adapting its service delivery during COVID-19, NCFH shifted many of its education and research programs from face-to-face to interactive online options, including live social media webinars, podcasts, small group discussion rooms, and facilitated co-design workshops.
This was demonstrated particularly in the development of online Farmer HAT (health assessment tool), Steering Straight (a downloadable resource helping farmers plan to stay on track amid challenging or stressful times), and access to telehealth services from accredited psychologists with specific farmer health training.
NCFH also led a dedicated social media campaign (#SnapshotRuralVic) in 2021 to boost mental health through shared stories and images, encouraging virtual social connection, and are set to launch a new social media campaign soon to support farmers affected by the recent floods.
NCFH plans to continue utilising skills and technologies adopted during COVID-19 to enhance farmer engagement and reach in post-pandemic Australia.
“Our Centre is continuing to develop and grow opportunities for farmer health, wellbeing and safety, through strong and critical partnerships with government, industry, health services, and—most importantly—the farming community. While our farming communities face many current challenges, we are well-placed to tackle these together to make a difference to farmers’ lives and hope to receive a commitment from the Victorian Government to ensure our ongoing funding in the very near future.” Dr. Alison Kennedy explains.
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Available for quotes:
Dr. Alison Kennedy, Director of the National Centre for Farmer Health
(03) 5551 8533
For more information about the National Centre for Farmer Health visit https://farmerhealth.org.au.