Cullybackey Health Centre GP Dr Brian Hunter has been named as a Medical Leader of the Year’ at the Institute of Healthcare Management Awards.
Dr Hunter, who is also Medical Director for General Practice in the Northern Health and Social Care Trust, won the special award for his work with the Farming Families Health Check project.
The project aims to address health inequalities in the rural community through events, press articles and the use of a mobile screening vehicle offering health checks at venues used by farmers.
Dr Hunter said: “It has been acknowledged widely that men in particular and farmers more specifically, do not access health care readily. This has left many long term conditions undiagnosed until significant morbidity is present.
“With the change in the working environment for farmers and the ageing of the workforce, we are seeing increased levels of obesity, diabetes, and uncontrolled hypertension. In an attempt to address this, in conjunction with a senior health promotion officer, Yvonne Carson, we devised a screening process to be taken to venues frequented by the farming community.
“This was piloted initially in the Northern Trust area with the support of local livestock market managers and subsequently received support and recognition from both the Ulster Farmers Union and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD).”
Although this started as a local health outreach, it soon had the attention of DARD and the Public Health Agency. The work has been funded through DARD and now has been moved to venues throughout Northern Ireland. Thousands of individuals from the targeted group have been screened and the presence of pre-symptomatic disease has allowed early treatment to be started.
Dr Hunter said: “The Public Health Agency saw the value in the screening method and gave their support which culminated in the launch of a joint initiative in November 2012. At the launch, a specially commissioned mobile unit was unveiled to the public and the Minister of Health, the Minister of Agriculture and Dr Eddie Rooney of the PHA spoke of the value of this initiative.
“The data collected from the farmers’ health checks is forwarded to the farmers GP with their consent and follow up contact is made by the ‘health check nurse’ to ensure appropriate management has been initiated”.
Working in partnership with GP colleagues is crucial to delivering the changes in health and social care outlined in Transforming Your Care. To further develop this the Trust appointed Dr Hunter as Medical Director to strengthen these links.