The Farm Families Health van rolled into Belcoo on their latest visit to Fermanagh to find farm family members from rural areas for a range of checks, from blood pressure to diabetes risk assessments.
The program just celebrated its 10th anniversary this year, and over the past decade has provided early diagnosis of various ailments to people who spent most of their time working in rural areas, such as farming.
The mobile facility, staffed by two qualified nurses, regularly visits livestock markets, agricultural shows and events, rural sports clubs and other community organisations.
Last week, nurses from a mobile health screening van carried out health checks on members of the Belcoo-based Rural Support Plow On project.
This is a project aimed at farmers over the age of 65 who may be working less on their farms and not doing as much as they used to.
At monthly Plow On meetings, they have the opportunity to meet others over a cup of tea and take part in a range of activities related to farming, rural heritage and history.
Nurse Helen McAuley explained that the van that arrived at Belcoo was their latest vehicle which was launched earlier this year to travel the roads of Northern Ireland with updated equipment such as battery powered machines instead of generators and solar panels. to help offset the power supply.
Health screenings for each patient include blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes risk, HbA1c diabetes screenings, weight and body mass index, as well as mental well-being screenings.
Helen explained that one of the health trends that emerged in recent years was the increased risk of diabetes.
Across the UK, diabetes diagnoses have increased by 67 per cent due to diet and lifestyle.
Most of the time, excessive consumption of sweet and sugary foods and consumption of processed foods are blamed for this. Smoking and drinking alcohol also play a role.
Nurses also provide skin care advice to farmers who spend a lot of time outdoors during the summer season, as well as discuss family health histories. Northern Ireland has seen a significant increase in skin cancer.
If health risks are identified by program nurses, they are referred to patients’ general practitioners for further analysis.
HbA1c is an indicator of how well diabetes is controlled.
Patients at risk of diabetes are given a slip stating that a blood test has shown that their blood sugar level is slightly above normal.
However, those patients may be offered a place on NI’s new diabetes prevention program to help them reduce their chances of developing diabetes.
Once in the program, patients receive help with healthy habits and learn new activities as part of a group.
The Farm Family Health Screening Program also helps patients complete a diabetes risk score by answering a variety of questions, such as age, gender, ethnicity, family history of diabetes, waist circumference, body mass index, and whether blood pressure has been diagnosed. The resulting score will determine the patient’s diabetes risk level.
The health screening is divided into two parts, a medical assessment and a lifestyle assessment. The medical assessment, which takes 10 to 15 minutes, is based on the various checks described above, while the lifestyle assessment, which lasts approximately 10 minutes, will include advice on smoking, healthy eating, exercise and alcohol consumption.
Nurses can refer patients to the various services available to them.