Rural Affairs

Health Forum launches new campaign

Commodity watch by policy and technical graduate student, Daniel McLaughlin

The Northern Ireland Agri-Rural Health Forum, a partnership of many organisations across Northern Ireland including the Ulster Farmers’ Union and co-ordinated by Rural Support, aims to enhance and promote health and wellbeing in the agricultural community.

Every year, the Forum runs a health and wellbeing campaign, which focuses on a specific health related theme. Last year, the focus was on blood pressure, with the Forum partnering with the British Heart Foundation to raise awareness amongst farmers. A survey of 500 Northern Ireland farmers across a range of ages conducted by the British Heart Foundation showed that 20% of individuals had high blood pressure. This emphasises the need to encourage farmers to get checked and pay attention to their health, with the work of the Forum helping to achieve this.

The Forum’s focus for 2024/2025 is on cancer and it has partnered with Action Cancer to deliver this campaign, which was launched at the Balmoral Show and highlights the importance of early detection. The first six months of the campaign will focus on skin cancer with the remainder focusing on other cancers. As a predominantly outdoor based industry, farmers are at a greater risk of skin cancer due to increased exposure to UV rays from sunlight, with rates of skin cancer in NI concerningly on the rise. The main message for this year’s campaign is: “You check your stock. You check the weather. Do you check your skin?”

Everyone, including farmers, should regularly check for any new moles or lesions and those that do not go away, and should make an urgent visit to their GP with any concerns they may have.

Prevention is always better than the cure. Everyone should be encouraged to;

  • Use a minimum of factor 30 sunscreen, applying 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapplying every 2 hours
  • Wear sunscreen from March through to October even on cloudy days and apply to all exposed skin
  • Wear wide brimmed hat, sunglasses and protective clothing
  • Seek the shade and take special care if fair skinned, fair haired and have moles or freckles
  • Prevent tanning and burning as this increases risk of skin cancer.

For more information, please visit