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School & Program Updates

School & Program Updates

Iowa Research Center Provides Funding for Unique Farm Safety Program

A grant from the University of Iowa’s Great Plains Center for Agricultural Health helped fund a farm safety outreach project tailored specifically to Hutterite farming communities in Eastern South Dakota.

Hutterites are Anabaptists and live communally, but differ from the Amish and Mennonites in the way that they use modern agricultural technology, cell phones, and vehicles for transportation.

The Avera St. Benedict Health Center in Parkston, SD, provides primary care, pediatric, emergency/trauma, and women’s health services to the Hutterites. The health center operates a colony outreach program that uses mobile clinics, a full-time registered nurse, a part-time physician assistant, and a behavioral health provider.

Approximately two years ago, the St. Benedict medical staff noticed that the members of eight nearby colonies were receiving emergency/trauma care with increasing frequency. There were 131 total emergency care incidents (among only 541 individuals over the age of 14) during a six month period in 2014-15. Most of the incidents were related to agricultural work and included eye injuries, bone fractures, skin wounds, crushed fingers, burns, and concussions.

With financial support from the Great Plains Center and organizational support from local agribusiness representatives and the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks, staff at Avera St. Benedict designed a unique outreach program, “Safe Farming, Safe Living,” to increase the awareness of farm hazards and promote safe work practices among the members of Hutterite community.

Special emphasis was placed on developing and delivering culturally appropriate safety and health education that would be accessible to all colony members, regardless of age or spoken language.  Because younger children in the colony speak only German, local pre-school teachers participated as interpreters. Agricultural health topics included cancer prevention and screening, zoonotic diseases, eye protection, heat/cold stress, and sun safety. Safety topics included livestock handling, All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) operations, grain handling, firearm safety, and prevention of tractor-related injuries.

Post-program evaluations show the outreach program was successful. More than 450 residents participated, with 88 percent stating they were now confident in identifying farm safety hazards; 92 percent thought the tractor safety activities were especially helpful.

The colony outreach nurse has also observed an increase in the use of car seats for children in vehicles and helmets by ATV drivers within the colonies.  No major life-threatening agricultural injuries have been treated at the health center since the program began last year.

Additional “Safe Living, Safe Farming” events are being scheduled with other colonies.

For more on this program, visit: