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Vermont Farm Health & Safety Coalition

Summary 
  • Need: Improved health and safety for Vermont farmers, farmworkers, and their families.
  • Intervention: The Vermont Farm Health & Safety Coalition works on advancing policies and programs focused on the shared health and safety needs of farmers, farmworkers and farm families living and working on our Vermont farms. It also provides education to farmers and medical providers on risks, safety measures, and treatment for farm injuries.
  • Results: Occupational safety trainings, educational events, and recent projects specific to migrant farmworkers, women in farming, and farm fire safety have improved farm safety awareness in rural Vermont and surrounding states.

Description

Because of the limited available information about the prevalence of arthritis in farming communities, the Vermont State Office of Rural Health and Primary Care partnered with the Arthritis Program in 2006 to conduct the first Vermont health survey specific to farm owners/operators. This survey was augmented by a separate survey developed for migrant farm workers. The survey results showed that, along with health conditions like osteoarthritis that many farmers had left untreated, there was a substantial need for health and safety improvement in rural Vermont farming communities. As a result, the Vermont Farm Health Task Force was established in 2007. Despite the continuing efforts of the Task Force and other agricultural agencies and organizations, there were still 124 injuries that occurred on Vermont farms from 2015 to 2016 due to falls, machinery, overexertion, and burns, among other reasons.

Vermont Farm Health & Safety Coalition Table
This graph was created by the Vermont Department of Health's Statewide Incident Reporting Network in 2016.

Efforts to improve collaborative farm health and safety data collection have continued slowly. However, this year the Vermont Department of Health has added farms on the list of locations included on their far-reaching Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) statewide survey.

In 2016, the Vermont Farm Health Task Force pursued nonprofit status and changed its name to the Vermont Farm Health and Safety Coalition. The Coalition has continued as a statewide membership organization regularly producing, or assisting in the development of, education and outreach materials regarding farm safety and migrant and immigrant farm worker health. In addition, the Coalition runs interdisciplinary agricultural medicine and occupational safety trainings for Vermont as well as other New England states.

The Coalition's programs and trainings are adapted to reach their targeted audiences, whether farmers, farmworkers, and their families; community and state farm organizations and agencies; or the general public.

Regular collaboration is maintained with member organizations through quarterly meetings, work group activities, and online communication. Primary members of the Vermont Farm Health & Safety Coalition include:

  • Vermont Department of Health
  • Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets
  • Vermont Department of Labor's Project's WorkSAFE (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Consultation Program)
  • Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont
  • Invest EAP Farm First Program
  • Veteran Farmers Coalition of Vermont
  • Vermont Farm Bureau
  • Vermont Free Clinics – Open Door Clinic and Peoples Health & Wellness Clinic
  • University of Vermont: Department of Agriculture and Animal Sciences, and University Extension
  • New York Center for Agricultural Medicine and Health
  • Vermont AgrAbility Project
  • Vermont Health Connect
  • Vermont Chiropractic Association
  • Vermont Congressional Delegation
  • Vermont Association of Naturopathic Physicians

The Vermont State Office of Rural Health and Primary Care is the primary funder of the Coalition.

Services offered

The Coalition has two standing work groups made up of members from more than 40 agencies, organizations, healthcare facilities, and farms. The Prevention, Education and Outreach Work Group and the Agricultural Medicine and Health Services Work Group are responsible for addressing the Coalition's 4 primary goals:

1. Migrant and Immigrant Farm Worker Health – Address the health and safety issues specific to the cultural and economic needs of migrant and immigrant farm worker populations.

2. Farm Safety – Increase relevant safety programs for farmers and others who live and work on a farm.

  • A safety concern about farm barn fires resulted in production and promotion of the 2017 Barn Fire Video. The video accompanies the Coalition's Occupational Safety Trainings and is featured on the University of Vermont Extension's Across the Fence television show. The Coalition created versions in both English and Spanish and documents to correspond with the video's lessons.

3. Practitioner Education – Educate rural healthcare providers, including EMS personnel, and agricultural professionals, to be better equipped to assist with the prevention and treatment of farm-related medical conditions, occupational safety issues, and overall injury prevention.

  • The Coalition runs a biennial 52-hour comprehensive training session: Agricultural Medicine: Occupational and Environmental Health for Rural Health and Safety Professionals. This training was a combination of online and onsite sessions. The Coalition is currently working on developing a shorter series of trainings for specific medical occupation groups serving rural communities, such as rural EMTs, Critical Access Hospital Emergency Room staff, and District Health Department Offices in rural areas.

4. Prevention, Education and Outreach – Develop programs and events to improve the health and occupational safety for farmers, farmworkers, and their families.

Vermont Farm Health and Safety Coalition Medical Staff
Medical staff interact with farmers at a Vermont Farm Health & Safety Coalition booth.
  • In partnership with the Vermont Department of Health's Division of Maternal and Child Health, the Coalition has developed educational materials for pregnant, postpartum or lactating mothers on how to stay healthy and safe while working on a farm.
  • The Coalition displays Healthy Farmers, Healthy Farms booths at the annual Vermont Farm Show every January. The University of Vermont Medical Center provides staff to deliver health screenings from the booths every day.
Vermont Farm Health and Safety Coalition Booth
Coalition member organizations connect with agriculture professionals and farming community members who visit their "Healthy Farmers, Healthy Farms" booth at the Vermont Farm Show.

Vermont Farm Health and Safety Coalition Poster
A Coalition publicity piece used at the Vermont Annual Farm Show.

Results

The following have been successes from the efforts of the Vermont Farm Health & Safety Coalition:

  • 175 people have attended the Agricultural Medicine and Occupational Safety Trainings with approximately one-third completing the Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health Certification Test offered for continuing medical education credit.
  • 92 participants have completed 1-day trainings in the last several years.
  • 160 to 200 health screenings have been performed each year by health professionals at the Vermont Annual Farm Show.

Replication

Over the last 11 years, the Vermont Farm Health & Safety Coalition has learned that the most effective program development occurs working on a county basis rather than on a statewide one because each county has different people already working on various aspects of agricultural-related services. This is especially true when integrating agricultural medicine into existing primary care, hospital, and EMS delivery systems.

Currently, the Coalition is in its second year of its rural, county-based pilot project "Agricultural Medicine Primary Care Services" for farm patients in rural Lamoille County. The project is aimed at developing a viable service delivery model that meets the community's needs.

Developing this kind of model requires a collaborative process among key organizations rather than a single agency venture and will include many, if not all, the following key players:

  • Critical Access Hospitals and county hospitals
  • Community outpatient clinics
  • Home health and hospice agencies
  • Mental health services
  • District health department office
  • EMS services, including rural EMTs and hospital emergency room staff
  • Community health team members
  • Interagency health organizations
  • Agricultural professionals from university extension offices, state agencies of agriculture, and others

Additional Resources:

Contact Information

Jean McCandless, Executive Director
Vermont Farm Health & Safety Coalition
vtfarmhealth@gmail.com

Topics
Farmers and farmworkers

States served
Vermont

Date added
February 9, 2018

Date updated or reviewed
February 12, 2019

Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2019. Vermont Farm Health & Safety Coalition [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/1002 [Accessed 14 June 2021]


Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.