Health study to improve farmer heart health underway

Tuesday 12th June 2018
A new 4 year study has commenced this week to examine approaches to assisting farmers to improve Cardiovascular health. The Study is being conducted by Teagasc PhD Walsh Fellow Ms Diana Van Doorn at the Centre for Men’s Health at IT Carlow. It is supported by Glanbia Ireland, Irish Heart Foundation, the Health Services Executive and the UCD School of Physiotherapy and Performance Science.

A new 4 year study has commenced this week to examine approaches to assisting farmers to improve Cardiovascular health. The Study is being conducted by Teagasc PhD Walsh Fellow Ms Diana Van Doorn at the Centre for Men’s Health at IT Carlow. It is supported by Glanbia Ireland, Irish Heart Foundation, the Health Services Executive and the UCD School of Physiotherapy and Performance Science.

Irish farmers, (in particular males) are a particularly high-risk group for cardiovascular (CVD) disease, the leading cause of death in Ireland. While a general decline in mortality rates has occurred in the Irish population in recent decades, the rate of decrease among farmers has been the lowest of any socio-economic group. Lifestyle behaviours, including occupational factors are strongly associated with cardiovascular disease and are therefore preventable. If untreated, CVD can have serious impacts on farmer’s health which undermines the profitability, productivity, competitiveness and sustainability of farming.

Speaking at the launch of the study, Professor Gerry Boyle, Teagasc Director, said: “By working with farmers and agencies with a role in health research and promotion, can we meet the key challenge of devising and implementing strategies to assist farmers to effectively manage occupational health issues including CVD. It is for this reason that I am delighted that substantial resources have been allocated to this project by Glanbia Ireland, Irish Heart, the Health Service Executive, Carlow Institute of Technology, UCD and Teagasc. These will enable us to work together to deliver real impact for farmers and family farms.”

Marese Damery, Health Check Manager, Irish Heart Foundation said: “The Irish Heart Foundation welcome the opportunity to collaborate on this project as it builds on the research already commissioned by us which revealed that 80% of farmers are in the high risk group for heart disease and stroke and recommended that more research be conducted on effective interventions with this group. The study adds significant value to the regular health checks that we undertake each year through our Farmers Have Hearts programme, supported by the HSE. We are particularly happy to have the opportunity to work in partnership on such a valuable study. This research is important in identifying ways that we can support farmers make positive changes to their lifestyles.”

Also speaking at the meeting, Audrey O’Shea, Sustainability Manager with Glanbia Ingredients Ireland, said: “Our vision as a dairy sustainability leader is to be a global reference point for best practice. At Glanbia Ireland , we believe that the ability to sustain a dairy enterprise is not only related to animal, environmental and economic care but also recognise that the Health, Safety and physical wellbeing of our farmers is fundamental to continued success.

Assisting the farming community to improve health and safety is a key objective for Teagasc. The research will provide opportunities for farmers attending marts in 60 locations throughout Ireland during 2018-2019 to undertake a health screen test and, if they choose, to participate in the study which will seek to support them to achieve their healthier lifestyle goals.

Pictured discussing details of the new 4 year Farmer’s health study were:
Front (l-r):Ms Diana von Doorn (Walsh Fellow – Teagasc / IT Carlow), Professor Gerry Boyle (Director of Teagasc), Ms. Audrey O’Shea (Sustainability Manager - Glanbia).
Back: Dr. Catherine Blake (UCD), Dr. Aoife Osborne (UCD), Ms. Paula Rankin (IT Carlow), Dr. David Meredith (Teagasc), Dr. John McNamara (Teagasc), Dr. Noel Richardson (IT Carlow), Ms. Janice Morrissey (Irish Heart Foundation), Ms. Marese Damery (Irish Heart Foundation)