Agricultural Health and Medicine education-engaging rural professionals to make a difference to farmers’ lives

Ms Jessie Adams1,2, Dr Jacquie Cotton1,3, Professor Susan Brumby1,2,3

1National Centre For Farmer Health, Hamilton, Australia,

2Western District Health Service, Hamilton, Australia,

3Deakin University, Hamilton, Australia


Populations in agricultural communities experience poorer health outcomes than their metropolitan counterparts. Despite continued higher rates of workplace injuries, earlier morbidity and mortality in farming populations globally; few formal programs focus on agricultural health, wellbeing and safety. Agricultural Health and Medicine (HMF701) was developed in 2010 by Deakin University and the National Centre for Farmer Health, aiming to increase cultural competencies and empower rural professionals to improve the health outcomes of rural and remote Australians.

This research used a mixed method approach to identify the extent to which past students (2010 to 2018) utilise the Agricultural Health and Medicine unit content in their current occupations, and identify barriers faced in implementing their learnings. Students were invited via email to complete an online survey. Following the survey, consenting students participated in a one-on-one phone interview.

Forty-one students completed the survey; a response rate of 31%. Additionally, interviews were conducted (n=11). Results were analysed using descriptive statistics, frequencies, chi-square tests and open-ended questions were themed. Nursing and farming were the most represented occupations. Of responders, 81% felt confident discussing agricultural health and medicine topics with their peers and community. Upon completion, over 75% agreed their ability to diagnose, treat or prevent agricultural occupational illnesses or injuries had improved, with 42% reporting that they use the course content professionally at least weekly. However, minimal evidence suggested career development resulting from course completion.

This research informs the continuous curriculum development and innovation within Agricultural Health and Medicine, and highlights the importance of an integrated and collaborative approach to at risk populations. Despite engaged graduates and the continued high mortality and morbidity rates within the agricultural industry, the importance placed in farmer health within organisations is inadequate and under recognised, with structural barriers a factor restricting career development post completion of this highly valued course.


Jessie Adams completed her Bachelor of Public Health and Health Promotion (Hons)/Bachelor of Commerce at Deakin University in 2017.  Currently, Jessie is working as a Research Assistant at the National Centre for Farmer Health in Hamilton working on a variety of projects focused on improving the health, wellbeing and safety of farmers in Australia. This opportunity has allowed Jessie to combine her interests of health and agriculture.

BCom, BPubHealth & HealthProm (Hons)

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