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Rural health and wellbeing in focus at major conference

Agriculture and Rural Development Minister, Michelle O’Neill and Health Minister Edwin Poots today opened a conference aimed at highlighting rural health and wellbeing within our rural communities.
Thursday, 7 November 2013

The conference was organised by the Northern Health and Social Care Trust and Rural Support, a charitable organisation that provides support through a helpline which offers a listening and signposting service for farmers and rural families. The conference highlighted how the current difficulties farmers are facing can impact on their health and wellbeing and highlighted some of the work already being done to address these issues, and significantly it also detailed the potential for growth and prosperity within the industry.

Speaking at the conference, held at Greenmount College, Antrim, Minister O’Neill said: “Often there is a romantic image of the ‘rural idyll’ and it is generally assumed that living in the countryside is good for one’s health and well-being. However, in reality, a variety of complex issues face those living and working in the countryside.

“Rural communities generally face poor access to healthcare services such as the provision of mental health services and access to A&E facilities which are limited in rural areas.”

The Minister continued: “My Department’s rural community development support service, delivered through the local Rural Support Networks, provides practical advice and support to farmers and farm families on the rural development programme, and on how to access information and advice on the economic assistance available to rural areas.”

Minister Poots commented: “Since the introduction of the Farm Families Health Checks programme last year, checks have been carried out on over 3,000 people at Farmers’ Marts and rural community events. This level of uptake proves that the farming community has an interest in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Where farmers can access healthcare advice in a place, and at a time, that is convenient to them, they will do so. It is up to us to ensure that this type of service is made available to them.”

Notes to editors:

  1. The Challenging Times conference was aimed at raising awareness of health and wellbeing particularly in rural areas and to highlight the various support mechanisms available.
  2. All media queries should be directed to the DARD Press Office on 028 9052 4619 or email: DARD Press Office. Out of office hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.