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Cooperation is the key to rural health and wellbeing: O’Neill

26 November, 2015 - by Michelle O'Neill

Improving the health and wellbeing of our farmers and rural dwellers requires cooperation right across government. 

That was the key message from Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle O’Neill when she delivered the opening address at the ‘Rural Health and Well-being; A Call To Action’ conference in Cookstown. 

The aim of the conference, jointly hosted by Rural Support and the Ulster Farmers’ Union, was to highlight and address the increasing challenges facing service users in rural areas. 

The conference examined ways to achieve positive health and well-being outcomes for the rural and farming community.

During her keynote speech to delegates at Loughry College, Minister O’Neill highlighted the difficulties faced by rural dwellers. 

She said: 

“Looking after the health and well being of farmers and rural dwellers is a challenging task due to the diverse nature of the services required. Coupled with the challenges that living in isolated rural areas can bring, this makes our task more difficult. Therefore, it is incumbent on all of us, particularly the many statutory organisations involved in the provision of health care, to work collaboratively with the common goal of facilitating a better service for all our rural dwellers.”

However, she acknowledged the excellent partnership arrangements which have developed between her department, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), Public Health Agency (PHA) and other organisations such as Rural Support.

The Minister said:

 “Through my department’s Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) Programme, we fund a number of initiatives which are definitely having a positive impact on the health and well being of rural dwellers. 

“Initiatives such as the MARA Project, the Farm Families Health Checks Programme, the work which Rural Support undertake, the Health in Mind Project, support of energy efficiency measures in rural homes, the Rural Challenge and Rural Micro Capital Grants Programme, and the Assisted Rural Travel Scheme have helped in no small way address health and well being issues as well as bring solutions to rural poverty and isolation issues”

Minister O’Neill emphasised her personal commitment to addressing the issues pertaining to rural health and well being.

She added: 

“This conference has in its title suggested that it is a time for ‘A Call to Action’. I therefore want to assure you all of my continued personal commitment to working with other departments, agencies and organisations and supporting initiatives which have a positive effect on the health and well-being of rural dwellers.” 

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