Since 2017, the Public Health Department at Campbell University has hosted an annual Rural Health Summit focused on specific issues in rural health. Summit themes have included oral health and food access. On February 29, Campbell Public Health hosted a Summit focused on the behavioral health of individuals working in agriculture: farmers, farmworkers, and their families.
Most attendees were health science students, but the crowd also included university faculty, health professionals in public health, medicine, pharmacy, and mental health, school counselors, farmworker outreach personnel, farmers, and farmworkers.
The itinerary allowed participants to share time together discussing big issues. Focus sessions addressed specific practices and innovative programs. Sessions that focused on behavioral health and wellbeing were offered to the farmers and farmworkers. These interactive sessions included financial planning for farmers and Spanish language wellness sessions for farmworkers.
Programming addressed community responses toward the behavioral health of farm and farm worker families. Dr. Roberta Bellamy was raised on a two-generation farm and was a summit speaker. She has dedicated her career to working with farm families. Bellamy stated, “The family farm is threatened, and therefore the health of everyone connected to the farm is also threatened.” This population of go-getters are not used to asking for help. While planning the Summit, Campbell focused on how communities can better respond to the needs of farmers, families, and workers.
In addition to the keynote speaker and interprofessional panel, there were six small group sessions. One of the breakouts was a Farm Dinner Theater that addressed agricultural health and safety. This session presented health and farm safety information to farm families. Attendees explored the concept of Reader’s Theatre, and were provided examples on how the theater has influenced the lives of participants to date.
Another unique session was Veterans in Agriculture. This session addressed how farming helps Veterans find a new mission and how farming saves lives in the post-military world. Attendees learned more about the correlation between Veterans and agriculture throughout history, and why there is such a need to reconnect the two industries today for economic development, therapy, and agricultural rejuvenation for both Veterans and our country’s needs.
“It is crucial to bring diverse perspectives together and have conversations on the policies surrounding behavioral health,” said Dr. David Tillman, chair of the Department of Public Health. “I am proud that our department was able to provide such a forum.”