Agricultural medicine is the specialty field of occupational health that deals specifically with the health and safety of agricultural producers, their families, and employees. Production agriculture is one of the most hazardous of occupations – worldwide. Agriculture is a most basic industry. A small percentage of the population in developed countries is engaged in production agriculture, and the trend is for fewer and older people making up the population. However, the approximate two percent of the population of developed countries involved in agriculture in developed nations produces the vast majority of the food and fibre that feeds and clothes the world. Therefore, the production agricultural population is an extremely important population, and one that must be preserved and sustained. The essence of the field of agricultural medicine is to do just that.
Agricultural medicine is a multidisciplinary field, involving physicians, physician assistants, nurses and veterinarians among others. Agricultural medicine is not usually taught in general health care curricula, and thus a special curriculum for students in graduate training and post graduate health care providers must fill this void. The topics of Agricultural Medicine includes the cultural dimensions of those working in agriculture, which is necessary for providers to understand in order to be an effective provider of health services to this community. Agricultural medicine also includes the essence of production practices in one’s region so that the provider understands how things are done in order for the provider to link the occupational exposures to the condition presented before them. Further topics include diseases and conditions commonly linked to agricultural exposures and systems diseases including the respiratory, musculoskeletal, and nervous systems, the skin, pesticides and other toxins, and general environmental effects. Diagnosis, treatment and prevention are covered, both for the individual and for the community.
This presentation will cover in depth the history and current status of training of agricultural medicine in various countries around the world. Special emphasis will be paid to the developing field with suggestions for best practices of agricultural medicine in Australia, in the efforts to develop a national Australian program.