UK colleges of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Nursing partnership aimed at farm safety and health

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By Laura Skillman
Special to KyForward

The University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment and College of Nursing are teaming up to expand community safety and health education and research through the Cooperative Extension Service.

Under the partnership, a community safety and health nurse will collaborate with extension’s program and staff development team to develop and deliver safety and health education, promotion programs and materials.

“I’m so excited about it,” said Deborah Reed, professor at the UK College of Nursing, who will be the nurse in the collaboration. “It’s a perfect partnership.”

Deborah Reed

Reed was raised on a farm 15 miles outside Lexington and has conducted community-based research on Kentucky’s farms for more than 26 years. Through the years, she has worked with colleagues in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment’s AgrAbility program and with county extension agents as well as other farm organizations.

“It is a great way of life, but most agriculture research is framed around production,” she said. “Farmers take such great care of the land and their animals, but we forget about those doing the work. Stress is the leading cause of injuries. and agriculture has the highest suicide rate for any occupation in America.

“The wonderful thing about nursing is that we look at the whole unit – the family and the community,” she said. “My role will be as a resource for extension to help expand their programs in agriculture safety and health as well as to possibly assist with grant writing.”

Cooperative Extension has a long history of providing educational programs to the agriculture sector including in the areas of health and safety.

“This partnership will allow us to take that to an even higher level and provide more information to our farmers and their families,” said Gary Palmer, interim associate dean for extension.

Reed said the idea behind the partnership started while collaborating with Will Stallard, Lincoln County agriculture and natural resources agent, for one of her Farm Theater Dinners. The plays, based on real events that have occurred on farms in Kentucky and Tennessee, are designed to get more farmers to think about occupational health, safety and disease prevention in their operations. In between each play, there is discussion about what they’ve seen along with a few statistics.

The initial theater program was funded through The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. It proved to be successful, and one of Reed’s first tasks in the partnership will be to train extension agents to conduct similar theater interventions in their local areas.

“Dr. Reed’s work in the community is a tremendous example of the college’s mission to promote health and well-being through community-based research,” said Janie Heath, dean and Warwick Professor of Nursing. “We are proud of this partnership that is truly making a difference in the lives of Kentuckians and beyond.”

Reed’s role officially begins Jan. 1. To her, getting to work with the Cooperative Extension Service is special.

“Without 4-H, I would not be here,” she said. “My start was in 4-H (an extension youth program), and my 4-H agent encouraged me to think outside the box. He was also the one who got me to begin thinking about going to college.”

Initially, she will be collaborating with agriculture but hopes to work with family and consumer sciences and 4-H programs in the future.

Laura Skillman writes for University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

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