Letter: RHI helps bring health care to farmers

To the editor:

I’m sure many of you’ve seen the recent story in the media about Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s recent visit to Wisconsin and his time spent on a farm. Zuckerberg spoke about his experience on a Wisconsin farm, and some of the highlights included a farm visit, a taste of raw milk and cheese curds. From his farm visit, he spoke about how disciplined the farmers he met were, stating that the farmer’s last trip was in 1981 when he got married, and that “everyone worked from daylight to dark, seven days a week.”

This dedication is admirable, but because they often don’t take the time to leave so they can take care of their livestock and crops, they often postpone care of themselves or get proper medical care or attention. Unfortunately, medical care comes to them after it’s too late and their conditions are chronic or emergent.

A group of people in Northeast Wisconsin came together in 2004 to address the concerns of keeping our farm family friends healthy and safe. They formed a nonprofit group serving Shawano, Waupaca and Outagamie counties called the Rural Health Initiative — a concept that brings preventive health-care screenings to the kitchen tables of the farmers/workers.

For the past 13 years, we have dedicated our time and resources in detecting chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes; 52 percent of the time an acute condition is detected. Had these conditions not been detected, it could have been a loss of time for these farmers’ ability to be so dedicated. Resources to support the program have come from organizations that care about agriculture such as ThedaCare, Ascension, United Co-op, Cooperative Resources International, Ardex, Family Foundations, and many businesses and individuals.

I have seen many changes in agriculture, especially the size of the farms over the past 13 years, but what I haven’t seen is the dedication to food production so we can all have food on our tables.

Visit us at www.wiruralhealth.org.

Rhonda Strebel,

Executive Director,

Rural Health Initiative