Farmers’ Concerns: A Qualitative Assessment to Plan Rural Medical Education


  • This study was supported in part by grants from the Alabama Family Practice Rural Health Board and CDC/NIOSH Grant No. T42OH084736 via UAB Deep South Center for Occupational Health and Safety. The authors would like to thank Mr. Toice Goodson and Mr. Harold McCool, Co-Chairs of the Alabama Agromedicine Policy Group, for authorizing this work. For further information, contact: John R. Wheat, MD, The University of Alabama, Department of Community and Rural Medicine, Box 870327, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0327; e-mail


Abstract Context: Limited research suggests that translational approaches are needed to decrease the distance, physical and cultural, between farmers and health care.

Purpose: This study seeks to identify special concerns of farmers in Alabama and explore the need for a medical education program tailored to prepare physicians to address those concerns.

Methods: We conducted 2 focus groups with 20 farmers from diverse communities, backgrounds, and farming operations. The sessions were audio-recorded, transcribed, coded, and analyzed for determined patterns.

Findings: The following categories were developed as areas of importance to farmers: the need for physicians to understand the culture of farming, occupational exposures in farming, and recommendations for improving the health of farmers.

Conclusion: Findings suggest that to adequately serve farmers, medical students interested in entering practice in rural areas should have or develop a relevant and adequate understanding of farming practices.