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Weather and Disease

Upon reading the Associated Press article 'Disease forecasters look to the sky: Health scientists are including weather data in attempts to predict disease outbreaks', my immediate thought was that those working in agriculture have been using weather to forecast disease even longer. I did a quick Google Scholar search and found links to peer-reviewed journal articles which connect weather related predictions to diseases in plants, vector borne diseases, waterborne diseases and other specific disease topics such as Lyme disease, West Nile virus, Stewarts disease on corn, hurricane activity predicting bacterial canker on citrus and Septoria tritici blotch on winter wheat--the results were numerous.

What does this mean for those of us working in One Health? This article and the results of my Google search illustrate the interconnectedness of the Human-Animal-Ecosystem interface that is One Health. These articles elucidate the relationship that exists between these categories and supports our continued efforts to build systems of professionals that work in collaboration to address the problems that we face while continuing to improve the health overall.

Here is a link to the AP article referenced above: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=168513454

As part of the Marshfield Clinic system the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety is a unique NIOSH funded center which provides a variety of resources and services relating to children and adolescents in rural communities and agricultural settings.

According to the center's website, the National Children's Center for Rural and Agricultural Health and Safety serves as a resource which:

• provides guidance for childhood injury prevention programs in both private and public sectors
• guides and supports efforts of major agricultural-related organizations in identifying potential interventions to protect children from agricultural hazards
• convenes consensus development sessions to address complex or controversial issues in childhood injury prevention
• provides technical assistance and training to professionals on youth safety issues
• collaborates with major agricultural organizations, health and safety professionals and youth-serving groups
• enhances communication linkages among child safety advocates in public and private sectors

Through its efforts the center has worked on a wide range of initiatives which include safe play areas on farms, injury prevention for children and adolescents in agricultural settings, agrotourism, and safety issues associated with adolescent farm workers. The center's efforts include research, education, intervention, prevention, translation and outreach to enhance the health and safety of children exposed to hazards associated with agricultural work and rural environments.

For more information on NCCRAHS or to view their publications, you can access their website at: http://www.marshfieldclinic.org/nccrahs/?page=nccrahs_welcome

Grain Bin and Silo Safety

This week author John M. Broder published the article 'Silos Loom as Death Traps on American Farms' in the New York Times. This article serves to highlight the unfortunate reality that grain bin and silo related deaths on US farms remain a constant threat to workers, even as other accident related deaths on farms have fallen. This article offers readers a real-life perspective by documenting the accidental deaths of several teenage farm workers. It should be noted that teenage farm workers represent only 4 percent of all US workers, but account for more than 40 percent of workplace deaths.

The article notes that the annual number of grain bin and silo deaths have been steadily increasing over the last 10 years, peaking at 26 deaths in 2012. The problem occurs when workers enter a grain bin or silo and the unstable grain filling it (primarily corn, soybeans and wheat) cascades out of control crushing or asphyxiating the workers.
While farmers are often aware of the hazards related to sending workers into filled grain bins, they lack equipment that could serve to protect workers against avalanche risks. Noted in the article is that virtually every entrapment death in silos and grain bins is preventable, when farms are kitted with basic equipment and adhere to federal guidelines.

Suggested guidelines developed by the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration include:

• Turn the power off to all equipment, particularly loaders and augers prior to any worker enter a grain bin or silo,
• All workers entering a grain bin or silo should be provided with a safety harness and supporting chair,
• An observer should always be present outside of the grain bin or silo to monitor the activities of the worker entering,
• No workers should enter a grain bin or silo which has grain bridged or built up on the sides,
• Air monitoring must occur to evaluate the presence of combustible or toxic gases.

A simple pulley system, safety harness and set of boards to fence off entrapped workers costs less than $1,000 per silo, while efforts such as having a observer and cutting power to equipment has no cost involved at all. These are low cost efforts that can help to improve outcomes involving grain bin and silo operations.

Implementing simple procedural guidelines can mean the difference between life and death when a worker is trapped in a grain bin or silo, for our youngest workers this is an effort that we all can afford.

To read the full text of the article please go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/29/us/on-us-farms-deaths-in-silos-persist.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Despite relative financial stability, many rural hospitals are planning for the future health needs of their patients and communities by choosing to merge into larger regional health systems. This significant change seeks to improve patient care through expanded services such as electronic medical records and improved physician recruiting opportunities in rural hospitals. Such mergers are providing hospital systems with structures that save money on overhead and equipment, as well as more fluid patient access to specialty care providers and resources.

A significant concern of the communities and the hospital staff members is that these mergers will result in a loss of control relating to major hospital decisions in a given community and create a more bureaucratic system as a result of the expanded footprint of the organization. For this reason many individual hospitals are working hard to ensure that extra efforts are made to maintain a sense of dependability in the level of care patients have come to expect from their small community hospitals.

The end result of these actions will be fewer independent hospitals in any given state or community. While this change will require that patients and providers make some changes to their familiar medical routines, it is likely that this change will result in greater access to care, improved hospital resources and ultimately healthier populations in rural communities.

For more information on the changing rural community health care in Minnesota, please see the MPR podcast and transcript available at:
http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2012/09/14/ground-level-rural-health-consolidation/

National Farm Safety and Health Week: September 16-22, 2012

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National Farm Safety and Health week is September 16-22, 2012. This year's theme is 'Agricultural Safety and Health--A Family Affair'.

While farming has changed significantly since National Farm Safety and Health week was first promoted in 1944 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, one thing has remained constant, for many communities farming remains a family tradition. In many farming families this is a multigenerational effort which includes children, adults and even senior citizens working hard to cultivate the food that provides nourishment to our nation and the world. This unique working dynamic provides farmers, policy makers and safety officials with the great challenge of promoting practices which ensure the safety of all individuals involved in the farming industry.

This week UMASH joins President Obama in recognizing these hard working families and we continue to look for ways in which we can promote safe and healthy working environments on all farms. Please link to the 2012 Presidential Proclamation at http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2012/09/14/presidential-proclamation-national-farm-safety-and-health-week-2012?utm_source=wh.gov&utm_medium=shorturl&utm_campaign=shorturl