Fit For Farming foreword
It is essential we are fit to farm
The most valuable part of a farm is the people; without those hands working to feed the nation we all would be in a very sorry state.
Any illness impacts on a family farming business, with the knock-on effects potentially travelling through the food supply chain. Irrespective of their farming roles, the farmer, his staff and his family play many other important parts – as parents, partners and respected members of society – and they should have the capacity to grow older in good physical and mental health.
The good news is that men generally are living 10 years longer than 50 years ago with many expected to live into their 80s. There is, however, a challenge with men who farm, as we are finding that many have problems they prefer to hide rather than tackle head on. We need to make sure they keep an eye on things so they can keep doing the things they enjoy – and age well. Though farming is an industry which continues to be resilient and responsive to the challenges it faces on a daily basis, working under these conditions can take its toll on the health of the farmer. Working in isolation, in extreme weather, with hard physical labour, animal disease, endless bureaucracy, fluctuating input costs and commodity prices that create financial pressures, can all have effects which may lead to personal health problems and mental strain.
As farming changes so does this booklet. It was updated in 2013 by the Yorkshire Rural Support Network, supported by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society and the Farming Life Centre (Blackwell, Derbyshire) and again in 2015 by various organisations including the Farming Community Network, who had used the original booklet extensively to help promote good mental and physical health in farming. These editions have seen new content including eye care, cancers, mental health, sex, ageing and the ageing brain. This health manual is designed to give good solid advice, providing all those working on farms with the guidance they need to keep well and to age healthily. Whilst it is ostensibly aimed at men, we acknowledge the supreme contribution made by women and young people and we hope they will also find much of the information useful and informative on a personal level.
Farming people should make their own health a priority. We need a vibrant, creative and energetic UK farming community as we operate in global markets to feed a growing world population. Good health will be at the centre of success. It is essential we are all ‘fit to farm’.
Professor Alan White, Centre for Men’s Health, Leeds Metropolitan University.
The Men's Health Forum is a member of the NHS England Information Standard and this new manual is fully compliant. This means it is fully-referenced, has been peer-reviewed by our team of medics led by Dr John Chisholm, the Men's Health Forum's chair of trustees, and also road-tested with men. You can have confidence that this is a reliable source of quality evidence-based health information.
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It’s tough for men to ask for help but if you don’t ask when you need it, things generally only get worse. So we’re asking.
In the UK, one man in five dies before the age of 65. If we had health policies and services that better reflected the needs of the whole population, it might not be like that. But it is. Policies and services and indeed men have been like this for a long time and they don’t change overnight just because we want them to.
It’s true that the UK’s men don’t have it bad compared to some other groups. We’re not asking you to ‘feel sorry’ for men or put them first. We’re talking here about something more complicated, something that falls outside the traditional charity fund-raising model of ‘doing something for those less fortunate than ourselves’. That model raises money but it seldom changes much. We’re talking about changing the way we look at the world. There is nothing inevitable about premature male death. Services accessible to all, a population better informed. These would benefit everyone - rich and poor, young and old, male and female - and that’s what we’re campaigning for.
We’re not asking you to look at images of pity, we’re just asking you to look around at the society you live in, at the men you know and at the families with sons, fathers and grandads missing.
Here’s our fund-raising page - please chip in if you can.