HMF702 unit details

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Healthy and Sustainable Agricultural Communities?

HMF701 students

It is the general rule that the more remote a community is, the poorer the health outcomes experienced by its people. There is also an increasing body of evidence that shows agricultural workers, their families and communities face poorer health outcomes than their urban counterparts. In particular, farming men, women and children experience higher incidences of injury, illness and work related fatalities than most other industries. Further compounding this unhealthy ‘life on the land’ is an ageing workforce required to work harder for longer in a time of changing agricultural practices, increasing corporatization and global food insecurity. All this while dealing with the stress of tightening financial pressures, natural disasters and succession. If that wasn’t enough, agricultural communities have less access to health and education services, medical specialists and are underrepresented in terms of community-level health and wellbeing initiatives. HMF702 fills the need for education and community level change to make our agricultural workforce healthier, more sustainable and more productive.

When, where and how?

HMF702, Healthy and Sustainable Agricultural Communities was developed to highlight the social, environmental and health promotion and policy determinants underlying these issues and provide you with the tools to make a difference. HMF702 is the second unit to be offered by the partnership between the School of Medicine at Deakin University and the National Centre for Farmer Health in Hamilton, Western Victoria. It is a 12-week online unit requiring 2-3 hours of study per week. It is worth 1 credit point towards a postgraduate qualification and can also be completed as a stand-alone professional development course. HMF702 is taught online during Trimester 2 via Deakin University Cloud Campus – July to October. During this time you will have access to weekly online lectures from a variety of rural experts and will spend time learning in a group setting through online discussion and activities. Successful completion will require weekly participation in online discussions and activities (20% of final mark), completion of two online tests (40%) and a written assignment (40%).

Topics include:

  • Social determinants of rural health
  • Remote health service provision and workforce shortages
  • Natural disaster recovery in agricultural communities
  • Roles of rural health professionals
  • Agricultural health literacy
  • Decision making in rural emergencies
  • Impact of climate on health
  • Food security
  • Rural and remote health planning and policy
  • Mental wellbeing in rural communities
  • Social dislocation and rural networks
  • Sustainable Farm Families
  • Health impact of disease outbreak and quarantine
  • Small towns and gender health
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Country lifestyle disease
  • Rural nutrition
  • Alcohol misuse
  • Minority workforce health in agriculture

What you will get out of it?

Photo by Ashlee Finch

At the end of this unit you will be able to:

  1. describe the social determinants of health that contribute to poor physical and behavioural health outcomes in the agricultural workforce, nationally and internationally.
  2. comment on the environmental, economical and health service constraints experienced in farming communities and how these influence physical and mental health.
  3. discuss the role climate variability plays in the health and wellbeing of rural and remote communities.
  4. consider the underlying attributes of successful health policies, health promotion and community level interventions in agricultural settings.
  5. critically evaluate literature surrounding the role of lifestyle disease on rural morbidity and mortality.
  6. use online communication technologies to investigate and address agricultural and rural health population problems.


This unit has no prerequisites. It is available to all postgraduate-level students or interested professionals from agricultural, education, policy or health backgrounds.

Unit fees

HMF702 Healthy and Sustainable Agricultural Communities is a full-fee unit offered through the School of Medicine at Deakin University. For more information about tuition fees, visit the Deakin website.

Further information

HMF701 Ag Health and Medicine 2011 HMF702 Healthy and Sustainable Agricultural Communities flyer
Deakin University Student Handbook
For more information on this unit, the topics covered or on the application process, please contact:
Unit Chair
Professor Susan Brumby
Phone (03) 5551 8533
PO Box 283
Hamilton, Victoria, 3300
Jacquie Cotton
Phone (03) 5551 8533