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Galway study highlights health issues for farmers



Farmers have been advised this week not to neglect key health issues after a major study revealed a high level of lung and respiratory problems in the agricultural sector.

The study also indicated that the chest problems suffered by so many farmers were not related to smoking or to the condition of ‘Farmer’s Lung’, often associated with handling mouldy or dusty hay.

Carried out by the Galway University Hospital/Saolta University Health Care Group, the study of over 400 farmers at the 2013 Ploughing Championships, again indicates that farming is far from a healthy profession.

The study also found evidence of ‘a strikingly high incidence’ of farmers being overweight with obesity a significant risk factor for asthma and obstructive lung disease.

“This observation [farmers tending to be over-weight] is concerning, given the recently described higher than average mortality and prevalence of cardiovascular disease in Irish farmers,” the study states.

Published in a recent edition of the Respiratory Medicine Journal, the study also found that there ‘was no significant difference’ in the numbers reporting respiratory symptoms between smokers and those who never smoked.

Galway IFA Chairman, Pat Murphy, said that the results of the study were worrying and probably represented a wake-up call for farmers in relation to the wearing of a proper mask when working in high risk environments whether it be sprays or dust.

“In many ways, farming is a very healthy occupation with an outdoor lifestyle but we now have to accept that it is also high risk,” he said.

He added that the findings of this latest study also were also in line with other recent reports indicating a problem with weight in the farming sector.

“Like all other working groups, we shouldn’t need any reminding that carrying extra weight is a major health issue and contributes also to chest and lung problems,” said Pat Murphy.

Professor Anthony O’Regan, Consultant Respiratory Physician at UHG, said that ‘remarkably’, almost two thirds of the farmers surveyed reported one or more chronic respiratory symptoms.

“Most were non-smokers (91%) – yet 13% had a pre-existing diagnosis of obstructive lung function. Unlike the non-farming population, obstruction on lung function testing was not associated with smoking but rather appeared to occur in those patients with symptoms or a prior diagnosis of asthma or hay-fever,” said Professor O’Regan.

He also pointed out that ‘Farmer’s Lung’ [an allergy caused by a reaction in the lungs to spores contained in mouldy hay] – previously felt to be common in Ireland – was reported by less than 1%.

Almost nine out of every ten farmers (89%) who took part in the study were over-weight, an observation described as ‘concerning’ in the report given the higher than average mortality rate and prevalence of cardiovascular [heart] disease.

One of the reasons for the high rate of respiratory problems could be a long standing exposure to airway irritants and inflammatory response triggers such as endotoxins [a poison releasing bacteria], fungal spores [possibly from mouldy hay], inorganic dusts and biological fumes.

Livestock farming – for whatever the reason – is also associated with higher rates of respiratory problems as compared to tillage and crop farmers. One of the conclusions of the study is that the high burden of lung disease is largely unrecognised.

“These results need to be considered in the context of high age-adjusted mortality rates in Irish farmers. Further studies are needed to more accurately determine the specific workplace exposures to account for our findings and to facilitate the development of preventative strategies,” the study concludes.


Bikers do their bit to mark anniversary of blood service



The Blood Bike team and supporters with the charity’ s newest motorbike, Cara, during the fundraising day at the Galway Plaza. Pictured are (from left) John Moylan, Bridie Lyons (Fundraising Manager), Sean Griffin, Fergus Turner, James Treacy, Pat McDonagh, Dave O'Leary (Chairperson), Ronan Kane (Fleet Manager), and Sergio Massidda.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Blood Bike West, and the big birthday was marked in style with a sun-drenched afternoon at Galway Plaza’s Bike Fest West.

Galway stuntman Mattie Griffin was the headline attraction; there was face painting, games, plenty of ice-cream – and hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts and families.

The birthday celebrations kicked off with a 160-strong motorcycle spin around the Galway countryside, raising well-needed funds for the volunteering efforts of Blood Bike West.

As a 100% volunteer-run and funded organisation, donations are vitally important for Blood Bike West to continue operating their medical transport in the West of Ireland.

Since its inception in 2012, demand for their volunteers’ services continues to grow:  collecting and delivering all manner of urgent medical items regionally and nationally, such as bloods, breast milk, medicines, scans, and equipment.

In 2021 alone, Blood Bike West delivered 983 urgent medical deliveries throughout the country.

As part of Galway City Councils Community, Blood Bike West undertook to operate a 24/7 service, including 165 medication deliveries from pharmacies to the self-isolating and vulnerable during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Since Blood Bike West’s inception in 2012, this increase sees the ongoing need to replace and renew their fleet of motorcycles.

Their motorbikes, Madison, Heather, Margaret, and newly inaugurated bike Cara, are regularly seen on Galway roads, delivering consignments to and from local and regional hospitals.


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Park fun to mark Africa Day



Pam Mncube-Zoki of Africa United Galway, speaking at the National Integration Conference at NUI Galway last week. The group are co-organisers of Africa Day which takes place in Salthill Park on May 28. Photo:xposure

On Saturday next (May 28) in Salthill Park, Galway’s African community invites people to join them in a celebration of culture as part of the national Africa Day celebrations.

Africa United Galway, emerging from lockdown and having hosted online festivals for the past two years, will be delivering a family fun day event.

Africa Day 2022 will reinforce a collaboration between Africa United Galway and Galway Africa Diaspora, Shining Light Galway and GoCom Radio (broadcasting live), who have worked to create a festival that will showcase Galway as a city of culture.

Among the performances on the day will be Afrobeat dancer Lapree Lala of Southside Moves, who will show how to dance in African style; Elikya Band will be bringing indigenous African Congolese music; The Youth Performances will be displaying their talent in rap, singing, speaking, and dancing and for the young at heart.

Galway Afrobeat performer Dave Kody will get the crowd moving and there will be poetry through spoken word and cultural displays. There will be a photo booth and face painting and everyone will get to have a taste of African cuisines.

In the spirit of inclusion and integration, The St Nicholas Collegiate Church Parish Choir will be presenting a special African performance as well as a feature presentation by the Hession School of Irish Dance, who will be presenting the famous Riverdance.

Also organised is a football friendly between the African community and An Garda Siochana.

The Mayor, Colette Connolly, will officially be opening the event with a keynote speech and several African Ambassadors are expected to be present on the day to reinforce the culture, beauty and strength of Africa and support for its people.

Africa Day is sponsored by Irish Aid and supported by Galway City Council.

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Domestic Violence Response recorded highest number of clients in 24 years under Covid ‘shadow’



At the launch of the Domestic Violence Response (DVR) Annual Report were Rachel Doyle and Elizabeth Power of DVR, Deputy Catherine Connolly and Anne Reynolds. Photos Sean Lydon


A domestic violence support charity in Galway has recorded its highest number of clients in 24 years – “under the shadow” of Covid-19.

Domestic Violence Response (DVR), which is based in Moycullen, also reported its highest level of counselling support sessions in its 2021 annual report published last week.

The charity saw 136 new clients in 2021, and a total of 266 people utilised its services. It also saw a significant increase of return service users.

The support service also provided 51 nights of emergency accommodation through a partnership between Airbnb, Safe Ireland, and Women’s Aid.

Elizabeth Power, Coordinator of DVR Galway, said: “Our 2021 annual report highlights the stark reality of the level of domestic violence in Galway. Under the shadow of Covid-19, DVR recorded the highest number of clients in our 24-year history and delivered the highest number of support services.

“Our staff noted increases in the level of worrying and harrowing experiences of control and abuse. The trauma of these experiences will live with our service users long after Covid-19 fades into memory.

“While Covid-19 restrictions are behind us, domestic violence continues to be present in hundreds of homes throughout Galway.

“As we move through 2022, we will continue to provide our much-needed services to women and men throughout Galway, with an extensive counselling support and advocacy service and a number of new initiatives including a partnership with the HSE which will be launched in the coming months.”

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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