CONTACT: LYNN ROSE
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9585; fax(319) 335-8034
Release: May 2, 2000
AgriSafe clinic network provides occupational health care for farmers
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A unique program based at the University of Iowa provides
Iowa farm families with the "tools" they need to reduce injury risks
and work safely on the farm.
The Iowa Agricultural Health and Safety (AgriSafe) Network of agricultural
occupational health clinics serves Iowa farmers throughout the state. Its
mission is to provide accessible and affordable health and safety resources
for farmers and their families. The network currently has six regional clinics
-- located in Sioux Center, Harlan, Spencer, Oskaloosa, Farmington, and Dubuque
-- and 15 affiliated clinics.
Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH) developed the
concept and helps maintain the AgriSafe clinic network. I-CASH's ultimate
goal is for each farmer in Iowa to live within 50 miles of an AgriSafe clinic.
The clinic network was begun in 1987 after Kelley Donham, D.V.M., professor
of occupational and environmental health at the UI College of Public Health
and director of I-CASH, visited and observed a clinic network set up to serve
agricultural workers in Sweden.
Since the program's inception, "there has been a steady increase in
the number of farmers coming in and asking for various types of safety equipment
and general health and safety information," said Carolyn Sheridan, AgriSafe
clinic director. "People want educational opportunities like those provided
through the clinics, and there has been a corresponding increase in the public
perception and awareness of the AgriSafe clinic program throughout the state."
Farmers visiting the clinics have the option to receive a set of comprehensive
occupational health services or receive specific services on a "fee for
service" basis. These services are tailored for each individual farmer
so that his or her unique health and safety needs are met. Clinic services
are designed to target high-risk areas of health and safety for agricultural
"Farmers come into the clinic with a wide range of needs and issues.
Sometimes it requires careful listening and input from other family members
to develop a complete and accurate picture of a farmer's health and safety
needs," Sheridan said.
The first component of health services provided through the clinic is a
visit by the farmer for an in-depth occupational health screening and a series
of health tests. The tests performed include pulmonary function, cholinesterase,
cholesterol, blood pressure, hearing, vision, height, weight and skin cancer
screening. The initial series of tests is used to establish a baseline for
the farmer's overall health and to monitor any significant changes in the
farmer's health over time. The results of these tests are also used to help
determine what kind of safety equipment would be most useful to the farmer
and what areas of his health are at the highest risk.
On-site farm visits and evaluations of farmers' working environments make
up the second component of clinic services, although some of the clinics do
not yet offer on-site services. Environmental evaluations are performed in
order to make recommendations for health and safety practices that are specifically
tailored to a farmer's working area. The evaluations also help the farmer
and clinic personnel recommend and select the most effective and proper protective
gear to be worn in the course of the farmer's working day.
Education is the third major part of AgriSafe clinic services. Educational
and outreach efforts include the entire family so that family members exposed
to the various work conditions may also practice safe and healthy work habits.
Teaching safety habits to children and young farm workers helps them develop
safe farming and injury prevention practices that they will use throughout
their working life, Sheridan explained. AgriSafe clinic staff visit county
fairs, agribusiness meetings and other places farmers gather and do business
so that they are accessible and may provide information to those individuals
who would benefit most from clinic services.
Staying informed about the farm economy and agriculture is also important
for clinic staff so that they understand how to best provide care to farmers.
Current economic conditions have led to increased stress and mental fatigue
for some farmers and their families, Sheridan said. Because many farmers work
a second job away from the farm, they are often subjected to twice as many
The care and information available to farmers through the clinic is not
designed to replace a primary care physician. AgriSafe services complement
the care and expand the available information of a primary care provider.
There are risks and hazards unique to farm work, and health care providers
need to have training and background in agricultural health issues in order
to properly diagnose and treat the ailments that farmers or their family members
may have. Working closely with the AgriSafe clinic staff, primary care physicians
are able to provide better care to their patients who farm. I-CASH provides
training for health care professionals in the area of agricultural occupational
health so that they more readily treat farmers' injuries and health needs.
For more information on the AgriSafe network of clinics, call I-CASH at
Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH) is a consortium
including the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, the Iowa Department
of Public Health, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
The consortium represents and helps maintain a statewide network of public
and private agricultural health and safety organizations. Located on the UI
Oakdale Research Campus, I-CASH's key objective is to reduce illness and injuries
among Iowa's agricultural population.