Researchers are seeking farm workers for healthcare study

Posted 1 year ago by David McManus
PhD student Indika Koralegedera (right) pictured with co-supervisor Dr Gemma Skaczkowski. (Source: Supplied)
PhD student Indika Koralegedera (right) pictured with co-supervisor Dr Gemma Skaczkowski. (Source: Supplied)

We’ve all heard the phrase ‘just walk it off,’ but for the manual labour of rural farmers and a lack of immediate support… Who can they turn to?

Key points:

  • Farmers are encouraged to get in touch with University of South Australia (UniSA) researchers for a study on chronic pain
  • Due to a lack of healthcare services in rural Australia, UniSA is seeking to understand the prevalence of ongoing pain management
  • In the latest reports, there were roughly 10,000 people with disability living in remote areas who were receiving National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) support, although statistics show that rural areas use less funding due to limited support services


Researchers at UniSA are looking to connect with farmers in rural Australia who have experienced chronic pain, as part of a new study into healthcare management strategies for remote communities. If left untreated, chronic pain can cause serious distress and diminished productivity.

Rural health expert, UniSA’s Associate Professor Kate Gunn, says the study will address a serious gap in pain management among farmers.

“Agriculture is a great industry to work in, but one of the down sides is the physical injuries that can result, which can have long term consequences on farmers’ ability to work and their wellbeing,” Assoc Prof Gunn says.

“Musculoskeletal disorders are very common in this group and due to the unrelenting nature of farm work, farmers often return to work without accessing best-practice treatments, and without being aware of what this means for their long-term health and wellbeing. We also know that farmers face multiple barriers to accessing mainstream healthcare services, including health professionals’ lack of understanding of their way of life.”

Kate says the new study is all about giving farmers a voice so that researchers can gain insight into how they perceive chronic pain, how it impacts their work and life, and importantly, how they would like to be assisted to manage it, in a way that fits with their preferences and lifestyles.

“This is important because there are practical things people can do for themselves and with health professional input, that research has shown really do help.”

Chronic pain is a common and complex condition characterised by persistent pain experienced on most days of the week. In Australia, chronic pain affects almost one in five people.

Renowned neuroscientist and pain expert, UniSA’s Professor Lorimer Moseley AO, says that all Australians should have access to the knowledge, skills, and local support to prevent and overcome persistent pain.

“Chronic pain is a huge burden to society, but despite its seriousness, only a small proportion of the population receive evidence-based information and advice about how to manage this condition,” Prof Moseley says.

“The effects of chronic pain are significant. It can reduce productivity, lead to increased body mass index (BMI), and substantially increase the risk of numerous other conditions such as stroke, cancer, depression, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis.”

“Rural communities are already struggling with health services. By working with farmers, we are hoping to develop realistic, appropriate and end-user-informed ways to improve the care and management of chronic pain in rural communities,” he adds.

The research team, which includes PhD student Indika Koralegedera and Dr Gemma Skaczkowski, is looking to connect with farmers who have experienced chronic pain. The pair will confidentially talk about its impact on their life and work, and what they currently do to help manage it.


For information about finding NDIS support and accessible accommodation in rural areas, check out the information portal of Disability Support Guide.