Chest pain in rural communities; balancing decisions and distance


  • Tim Baker, MB BS, Emergency Physician; Scott McCoombe, PhD, Lecturer; Cate Mercer-Grant, BBus, Program manager; Susan Brumby, RN, MHM, Clinical Associate Professor.

Clinical Associate Professor Tim Baker, Centre for Rural Emergency Medicine, Deakin University School of Medicine, Ryot Street, Warrnambool, Vic. 3280, Australia. Email:


Objective: This pilot study examines the prevalence of cardiac risk factors in a cohort of agricultural workers, assesses their knowledge of local emergency health services and investigates their decision-making abilities with regard to when and how they would seek help when experiencing chest pain.

Methods: Farm men and women were recruited from 20 rural Victorian sites and underwent health assessments for total cholesterol, blood glucose, weight, height and blood pressure. Participants completed a survey to determine their knowledge of chest pain treatment, local emergency services and likely response to chest pain.

Results: Cardiac risk factors within this cohort of 186 adult farming men and women were common, with 61% of men (58/95, 95% confidence interval [CI] 51–70) and 74% of women (68/91, 95% CI 65–83) either overweight or obese. When asked to name their nearest ED, 10% of participants (19/184, 95% CI 7–16) nominated health services or towns where no ED exists. Furthermore, 67% of respondents (123/185, 95% CI 59–73) believed it was safe to travel to hospital by car while potentially having a myocardial infarction.

Conclusions: This cohort of agricultural workers were at considerable risk of experiencing acute coronary events, but many would make decisions about when and how to seek medical help for chest pain that are at odds with published community guidelines. These results highlight the need for education to improve knowledge of local emergency services and address behavioural barriers to accessing care.