The Farm Families Health van pulled into Belcoo during its latest visit to Fermanagh to look for family farmers in rural areas for a range of check-ups, from blood pressure to diabetic risk scores.

The program has just completed 10 years this year, and over the past decade, it has identified early diagnosis of various diseases in people who spent most of their time working in rural areas such as agriculture.

The mobile facility – staffed by two qualified nurses – regularly visits livestock fairs, agricultural fairs and events, rural sports clubs and other community organizations.

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Last week, nurses from the mobile health control van carried out health screenings on members of the Belcoo-based Plow On Rural Support project.

This is a project for male farmers over the age of 65 who maybe are less active on their farms and don’t go out as much as they used to.

At the monthly Plow On meetings, they have the opportunity to meet other people for tea and can participate in various activities related to agriculture, rural heritage and history.

Nurse Helen McAuley explained that the van that visited Belcoo was the last vehicle launched earlier this year to travel the roads of Northern Ireland with up-to-date equipment on board, such as battery-operated machines rather than being powered by generators, as well as be installed with solar panels. to help offset the electricity supply.

Health checks performed for each patient include blood pressure checks, cholesterol levels, diabetic risk, diabetic HbA1c checks, weight and body mass index checks, as well as mental wellness.

Helen explained that one of the health trends that have emerged in recent years is the increased risk of diabetes.

In the UK as a whole, there has been a 67% increase in diabetes diagnoses, attributed to diet and lifestyle.

This is usually attributed to eating too many sweet and sugary foods and eating processed foods. Smoking and alcohol consumption also play a role.

The nurses also offer skin care advice to farmers, who spend a significant amount of time outdoors during the summer, as well as discussing the family’s health history. In Northern Ireland, there has been a huge increase in skin cancers.

If program nurses identify health risks, they are referred to the patients’ family physicians for further analysis.

HbA1c is a measure of how well diabetes is being controlled.

Patients at risk for diabetes are given a leaflet indicating that the blood test showed that their blood sugar levels were slightly above the normal range.

However, these patients may be offered a place in the new Diabetes Prevention Program for NI to help them reduce their chance of getting diabetes.

Once in the program, patients receive guidance on healthy habits and learning new group activities.

The Farm Families Health Checks program also helps patients complete a diabetes risk score by answering a series of questions such as age, gender, ethnic origin, family history of diabetes, waist circumference, Body Mass Index and whether blood pressure artery was diagnosed. The resulting score will determine where the patient is on the diabetes risk level.

Health screenings are divided into two parts, a medical assessment and a lifestyle assessment. The medical assessment, which lasts between 10 and 15 minutes, is based on the various checks described above, while the lifestyle assessment, which lasts around 10 minutes, will include advice on smoking, healthy eating, physical exercise and consumption of alcohol.

Nurses can refer patients to various services that are available to them.

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