The Farm Families health check van has hit the road again as Covid restrictions ease. West Tyrone MLA Declan McAleer, who chairs the Stormont Agriculture Committee, welcomed the re-introduction of the service.

‘White coat syndrome’

“I was delighted to welcome the Farm Families health check van to Loughmacrory on Wednesday where nurses spent the day carrying out essential health checks on local people," McAleer said. “This service is funded by DAERA and the Public Health Agency and the visit to Loughmacrory was organised by the Men's shed and St. Teresas GAA club in partnership with Omagh Forum for Rural Associations.
In isolated rural areas there are many reasons why people do not or cannot access health services. This could be due to many reasons such as no access to transport or a belief that you should only attend the doctor if you are sick. Unfortunately, at that stage it may be too late, so regular checks and ‘MOTs’ are crucially important to prevent serious illnesses.
“The positioning of the van in the local community makes it more accessible, but importantly it also helps make people feel more relaxed in familiar surroundings. This is particularly the case for those who are anxious of medical settings and who may experience ‘white coat syndrome’. “In line with Covid public protection measures, the van could not be used during the lockdown, but with the restrictions easing it is great to see this vital service back on the road again."

Farm Families Health Checks Programme

The health check van is run as part of the Farm Families Health Checks Programme, which offers a means for farmers and their families to access health checks from a portable clinic and from local community settings. This mobile unit attends at local livestock markets and community events across Northern Ireland, to offer on-the-spot health checks consisting of blood pressure monitoring, BMI, cholesterol check, and diabetic screening. In addition, individual lifestyle advice will be given on a range of health issues, and onward referral completed to local support services as required. McAleer concluded:“I strongly support the Farm Familes Health check service and I have been vocal about this in the Assembly and in support of DAERAs funding of the project through their Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) programme. “I strongly encourage people to access this service either at the marts or in a community setting, particularly if you do not routinely get your health checked. "A visit to the van could detect and prevent serious illness - or even save your life.”