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Videojournalist Waikato, NZH Local Focus

Local Focus: It's just a quick prick for farmers

There's more than stock feed, fencing wire and gumboots on offer for farmers visiting the Cambridge Fonterra Farm Source store in the next few months.

Free health checks are also on offer as part of a national campaign to deliver health checks to farmers.

But they may have to wash their hands before getting their finger pricked for a cholesterol check.

Waikato Polytechnic nursing student Helena Walsh says they check farmers body mass index, glucose levels, cholesterol and blood pressure, and talk to farmers to gauge their emotional health.

It's a hands-on opportunity for Walsh before entering the workforce at the end of the year.

"It's giving experience and just helping us get our clinical hours up and get all the experience up before we graduate," she said.

But setting up a "health pit stop" in a farming supplies store has its own challenges.

"If you're doing blood pressure it can get a bit noisy and be a bit difficult."

Walsh found it similar to community-style nursing - it's all about getting to know people and hear their stories.

Cambridge dairy farmer Dean Bailey was getting farm supplies and stopped to get his health checked. It's the second time he has had a check-up at the "health pit stop" service.

"It's a bit like maintenance on the farm I suppose, getting your maintenance done on your health and whatnot. Yeah, yeah - it's a good time," Bailey joked as his finger was pricked.

The "pit stop" programme is a $170 million innovation investment led by commercial partners, including DairyNZ and Fonterra, and partnered with the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Since it started in 2010, more than 4000 farmers have had health check-ups. But a recent funding alteration meant changes had to be made to ensure the vital health service could continue.

Farm Source stores across the country now host the health pit stops and nursing students volunteer their time.

Setting up the "pit stops" in stores makes it easier to intercept farmers and start a conversation about their mental and physical wellbeing - a conversation that's too often avoided.

"I think it's on the agenda a lot more and on people's minds," Bailey said. "But I'm sure there's plenty of people that don't think about it enough still.

"So having it in places like this are good because... it gets the thought process going that they (farmers) go to their own doctor or come and get a test done. That's all it is really, it is just to find out if there are alarm bells, then you can go to your doctor to get it followed up."

Walsh admitted some farmers can be stubborn.

"They don't necessarily make the time to go check on their health and so you see some come into the store for this and I'm leaving, 'I don't have time' kind of thing, which is part of the problem.

"A lot of them don't have the time to take care of themselves, they're too busy taking care of their farm."

Next week the Wintec nurses will set up the health pit stop at Morrinsville's Farm Source store.

In the next two months, there are plans for health pit stops in Taranaki and Southland.

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- NZ Herald

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