Raising awareness of the factors that can lead to misuse has helped health professionals integrate health measures into preventative health programmes for rural communities.
A pivotal activity of any medical stewardship programme is training of doctors and health professionals to recognize and treat incidents of accidental or deliberate poisoning with crop protection products. A major initiative, sponsored by private enterprise, has been taking place across the Asia Pacific region in recent years. The countries targeted are China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.
The training programme has evolved to include educating doctors on the role and use of crop protection products within the agricultural community for food production. The aim is to make them more aware of the range of products available, the ways that operators use these and to help identify potential problems in use. Raising awareness of the factors that can lead to misuse has helped health professionals integrate health measures into preventative health programmes for rural communities in many countries.
Doctor training and working with health professionals at a national, regional and local level also provides a rapid feedback and better understanding of the issues relating to product use and misuse. Highlighting problems enables the industry to develop practical solutions. These solutions include changes to label wording recommendations, improved packaging design or storage and application advice to minimize risks. Doctors and health workers must be kept up to date with the introduction of new products and the results of product safety assessment in order to effectively treat their patients.
The Ministry of Agriculture in China established, with the support of private enterprise, a Non-Hazardous Food Action Plan. The initiative promoted a safe use training programme that provided help, advice and a series of support tools to over 30,000 participants. By targeting the training at key farmer groups, crop protection product retailers and grass roots extension workers, the messages on safe use have spread far further. Studies have shown each key farmer influences a further 24 farming families, with retailers influencing an average 83 families and extension workers 96 families. With an average of two farm labourers per family the sphere of influence from each training session is immense.
Independent evaluation of the programme by the China South West Agricultural University reported that before training 90% of farmers undertook limited personal hygiene steps after spraying. Following the training programme 85% now washed and changed clothes. Pre-training 75% of farmers just discarded containers in the field. After training, 86% took appropriate measures to dispose of them safely.
The report added: “The grass roots training model has proved to be an effective way of safe use technology and concept extension. We recommend continuous implementation and further spread of this mode in future farming training”.