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Intervening to improve health indicators among Australian farm families
journal contributionposted on 2009-07-01, 00:00 authored by J Blackburn, Susan BrumbySusan Brumby, S Willder, R McKnight
The Sustainable Farm Families project (http://www.sustainablefarmfamilies.org.au/) was a 3-year demonstration and education project designed to influence farmer behavior with respect to family health and well-being among cropping and grazing farmers in Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia, Australia. The project was conducted by the Western District Health Service, Hamilton, Australia, in partnership with farmers; Farm Management 500 (peer discussion group); the Victorian Farmers Federation; Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology; and Land Connect. During the 3 years of the project, 128 farmers—men (70) and women (58)—were enrolled. The project utilized a combination of small group workshops, individualized health action plans, and health education opportunities to encourage farm safety and health behavior changes and to elicit sustained improvements in the following health indicators: body mass index (BMI), total cholesterol, fasting blood glucose, and blood pressure. Mean changes in these health indicators were analyzed using repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) and McNemar's test compared the proportion of individuals with elevated indicators. Among participants with elevated values at baseline, the following average reductions were observed: BMI 0.44 kg/m2 (p = .0034), total cholesterol 48.7 mg/dl (p < .0001), blood glucose 10.1 mg/dl (p = .0016), systolic blood pressure 12.5 mm Hg (p < .0001), and diastolic blood pressure 5.0 mm Hg (p = .0007). The proportion of participants with elevated total cholesterol at baseline decreased after 24 months (p < .001). Such findings suggest that proactive intervention by farmer associations, rural health services, and government agencies may be an effective vehicle for promoting voluntary farm safety and health behavior change while empowering farm families to achieve measurable reductions in important health risk factors.