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Release: March 13, 2000

I-CASH trains health care providers on agricultural health issues

IOWA CITY, Iowa — To help health care providers address the health risks and injuries encountered every day by Iowa farmers, Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH) maintains several initiatives to train and educate health care professionals about agriculturally related injuries and illnesses and their treatment.

The Iowa Agricultural Health and Safety Network (IA—HASN) consists of six regional and 16 affiliate clinics throughout the state. These clinics offer occupational health services to the farming community. Health care personnel at these clinics are specially trained to deal with agricultural injuries and health issues. The clinics create and use outreach programs to bring health care services to farm families at events like county fairs and pesticide applicator training sessions.

"The clinics often function as the initial point of entry for farmers who have infrequent contact with the health care system," explained Natalie Roy, an I-CASH consultant who coordinates agricultural health training for the center. "Farmers often do not seek treatment until they have an emergency arise. When members of the farming community visit the clinic, they meet with health care providers trained in agricultural health issues and gain access to the larger health care system."

When a farmer visits the clinic, for example, an occupational health nurse reviews an extensive occupational health history form completed by the farmer. The nurses also perform standard diagnostic tests including blood pressure checks, pulmonary function screenings and cholinesterase screening to help assess the condition of the patient's overall health. The information gathered during this process helps the nurse respond to the unique health care needs of the farmer and educate and inform the patient about preventive measures that could make the farmer's job less hazardous.

At this initial visit, if the patient needs services not available at the clinic, he or she is referred to a primary caregiver. The occupational health nurse is able to provide substantial information to the primary caregiver regarding health issues of the patient.

"The work done by the nurses in the OHNAC program complements and supplements the work done by primary caregivers," Roy said.

From May 17 to 19, and June 21 to 23, I-CASH will offer an Agricultural Occupational Health Training program for health care providers who treat farm families. Topics to be discussed include: agricultural health delivery, respiratory illness, acute trauma, skin diseases, noise induced hearing loss, mental health issues, toxic and biological hazards, and other topics.

"The information presented is fundamental to all health care practitioners working with agricultural health issues. All the training sessions will be led by recognized experts in the various topic areas," Roy said.

Nurses, nurse practitioners, physicians, physician assistants and other health care providers are invited to participate. For more information about these training sessions or to register, contact Kristi Fisher at (319) 335-4219 or Brenda Countryman at (319) 335-4438.

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.

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Natalie Roy may be reached at (301) 293-1203.)