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May 1, 2007

Purdue Extension resources help farmers cope with arthritis

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Most people look at farming as being a healthy occupation, where farmers are outside and doing a lot of work. But according to a Purdue University expert, farming is an occupation that has a lot of repetitive types of activities, which can have an especially disabling effect on farmers and ranchers.

"About one-third of all farmers in this country have some form of arthritis that keeps them from doing the daily chores they would like to do because of either stiffness or pain in the joints," said Bill Field, Purdue Extension safety specialist. "It's the kind of thing that prevents them from being comfortable in doing some of the work they would like to do."

May is National Arthritis Awareness Month, which strives for increased awareness and understanding of arthritis.

Purdue Extension, Purdue's Breaking New Ground Resource Center and the Arthritis Foundation, Indiana Chapter, have teamed up to produce "Gaining Ground on Arthritis: Managing Arthritis in the Agricultural Workplace," an educational DVD to help people understand arthritis and to provide practical tips on protecting joints, managing stress and modifying work practices through special tools and other devices.

"As we've become more acquainted with farmers, we saw how difficult it was for some of them to keep working and to stay active longer in their life,? Field said. "We felt it was important to take on that task of educating farmers about arthritis issues and then trying to come up with some adaptive aids or solutions that reduce the stress on their joints and make it easier for them to work."

Mike Williams, a Daviess County farmer, who has three different types of arthritis, credits Breaking New Ground's Outreach Program and the state's Vocational Rehabilitation program with making it possible for him to continue farming.

"Steps on the tractors makes it a lot easier to get on because we have mostly older equipment," Williams said. "The Mule (utility vehicle) has been a tremendous help. It enables me to go to the barn and pick up parts and come back out here and work on different things. These devices make my job easier to where I can still get out there and still work. We didn't realize anything like this existed. It was a total surprise to us."

Williams has worked on a family farm his entire life.

"I was always big and strong and could carry four buckets of water at a time," said the 61-year-old Williams. "But the years of hard work has taken a toll on my joints." Williams encourages farmers, such as his son Kyle, to adopt practices explained in the DVD as preventive measures while they are still young and healthy.

The DVD will premiere at a fund-raiser for the Arthritis Foundation from 6-8 p.m. May 11 at the Presbyterian Church, 5434 W. Indiana 26, Rossville, Ind. The DVD was filmed largely in Rossville and surrounding areas. The event, which includes dinner, costs $10 for the meal. All proceeds go to the Arthritis Foundation, Indiana Chapter to help distribute the DVD to farmers throughout Indiana. Call (800) 825-4264 or (765) 494-1221 for reservations.

The "Gaining Ground on Arthritis" DVD costs $25, with discounts available for bulk orders. Order online at the Purdue Extension Education Store or from the Arthritis Foundation, Indiana Chapter, (317) 879-0321.

Writer: Olivia Maddox, (765) 496-3207,

Sources: Bill Field, (765) 494-1191,

Mike Williams, (812) 659-2611

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722;
Beth Forbes,
Agriculture News Page

Note to Journalists: Video is available for both sound bites and B-roll. Contact Olivia Maddox, (765) 496-3207,

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