Partnership targets farm safety among region’s Amish population

HERSHEY, Pa. — Beyond the picturesque barns and horse-drawn buggies that define Pennsylvania Dutch Country lurk farm dangers that can land children in the hospital.

Falling down hay holes in the barn, injuries from farm equipment, and being struck by large farm animals are top causes of trauma to children brought to Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and Penn State Children’s Hospital.

Preventing injuries and death on farms across the state is a priority, thanks to a unique partnership between medical personnel from the Children’s Hospital and Lancaster General Hospital, Penn State Cooperative Extension, and the Pennsylvania Amish Safety Committee.

“We are the referral center for many of the Amish and Mennonite children from Lancaster County,” said Penn State Children’s Hospital Pediatric Trauma Coordinator Beverly Shirk, who is involved in the joint safety effort. “We meet on their turf and we talk about injuries we see in our trauma centers, particularly to children.”

The Pennsylvania Amish Safety Committee is made up of a group of five elected Old Order Amish men from Lancaster County, home to more than 5,000 farms, most of which are owned by Amish and Mennonite families. The men provide free safety programs in Pennsylvania German across the state and beyond and help other counties start their own safety committees.

Often the Amish will identify common farm hazards and bring them to the safety coalition meetings for input and advice, Shirk said.

“It’s so important to target this Anabaptist population because they don’t have any other avenues to learn this information. Often what they know is handed down from generation to generation and it may not be scientifically based. They don’t watch TV or use the internet and they are not going to FFA or 4H meetings,” Shirk said. “However, they are very open to education and demonstration, particularly as a tool for learning.”

Learn more about the partnership to prevent injuries on Amish and Mennonite farms in this Penn State Medicine article.

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Last Updated October 06, 2017