Rakaia GP thinks outside the square with farmer consults

27 November 2019

Originally published by the New Zealand Rural General Practice Network and republished with permission.

Taking health check-ups to the farm gate has proved successful for College Fellow Dr Sue Fowlie, from Rakaia Medical Practice in Canterbury.

Sue worked with rural journalist Craig (Wiggy) Wiggans from Farmers Weekly to organise wellness check-ups for farmers in their own setting, in this case at a stock sale using a horse float as a consult room.

Sue and Wiggy got chatting and their concerns centred around mental health, the general wellbeing of farmers, and the rural community - specifically those who do not consult their GP until they are very unwell. Craig suggested taking wellness checks to farmers in their own setting.  

‘He asked if I would be willing to give up some time and do wellness checks at the local stock market and get the message across that you really need to take time to see your GP before you tip over the cliff.”  

Sue and one of her practice nurses did just that and she say it was well received by famers, stock agents and others attending. 

“Wiggy asked the auctioneers to promote it and they were delighted with the idea. He also went around and encouraged checks as he is a well-known face.”

The checks included blood pressure, weight, oxygen saturation, pulse (regular or not), and FEV1 (handheld) in smokers. 

“Everyone was given a card with mental health helpline details and asked about family history. We also chatted to them about being proactive and looking after their health, and wrote down their readings for them to take home.”

“We kept no details of the people except a total of numbers seen, numbers of smokers/ex-smokers and numbers of abnormal readings. 

“We did 47 checks that day which was great as it was a small sale. We also directed around five people to their GP for blood pressure checks, as well as suggesting to several others they should consider cardiovascular risk reviews due to other factors.”

More recently, Sue and Wiggy attended the Waimate Shearing Competition and did 63 health checks. Worryingly, in the age group 45-60 years, 40% should have gone to a GP for a specific reason. 

Keen to get involved?

Going forward, Farmers Weekly is planning to set up a caravan at other events such as stock markets, shearing events, and other farming days in different areas. 

“We would like to hear from GPs in rural areas who are willing to help with this initiative in their local area.

“Farmers Weekly is looking to fund this by providing a place for the checks and buying the necessary equipment.”

If this is something you would like to be involved, in please contact Sue by email: sue@rakaiamedical.co.nz or call her on 021 190 4504.