National Centre for Farmer Health

Feature image for National Centre for Farmer Health

Founded by the Victorian government’s Future Farming Strategy the National Centre for Farmer Health (NCFH) is an organisation focused on the education, research and innovation into health, wellbeing and safety of farmers and rural communities.

In 2018, farms accounted for 23% of worker fatalities in Australia, yet the agriculture industry made up only 2.3% of the workforce (1).

NCFH had an incredible asset of information, research, and data on farming health, yet a challenge remained:

  • How can these “hard to reach” community groups be better engaged to build awareness of farming hazards and to create a sustained, long-term and positive impact
  • How can the information, research and data be best presented in a way the is consumable, discoverable and in a medium that is useful to the community to utilise?

Exco Partners was engaged by the National Centre for Farmer Health to address these challenges. Specifically, to uncover better ways to reach and engage with farming communities, and to develop new ways to interact with these groups to support long-term and sustainable benefit.

A project was established with the following objectives:

  • Enable further reach and engagement with the clinical, educational, research and farming communities
  • Develop new ways to create a long-term connection with the above user groups
  • Increase the awareness of the NCFH and the hazards present in farming
  • Increase the NCFH ability to contribute to the positive health, wellbeing and safety, of farming and regional communities across Australia and internationally.

The project was approached with three key phases drawing on Exco Partner’s CoreMethods™ methodology. Each phase was designed to address key aspects of the project and drew on specific skills across a combined Exco Partners and NCFH team. The first phase, Discovery, focused on customer research, stakeholder engagement, visual design, and planning. The second phase, Delivery, focused on software development and delivering the key features/functions as defined during the Discovery. The final phase, Launch, completed launch activities, released the finished project deliverables to the public and supported the release through the initial stages of user uptake.

Mobilisation and project initiation. Planning, review existing artefacts, user research and analysis and visual design.
Agile software build phase to deliver discovery scope. Output of this phase will be a tested and release ready software package and completion of business readiness activities such as training.
Business readiness, software released into production and Hyper-care activities to support business change and hand-over to lifetime support.

A “Human Centred Design” approach was used as the centre piece of Discovery activities. Human Centred Design is a method of problem solving and design that seeks to develop solutions that promote consideration of a human perspective. This method was particularly suited to the project as the core outcomes were human related, specifically regarding the health, wellbeing, and safety of farming and regional communities.

To better understand the problem space, the Exco Partners Customer Experience team started with a focused period of heuristic review of existing data and initiated a set of user research.

Exco Partners engaged a user stakeholder group comprising of farmers, industry body representatives, Deakin University, Agriculture Victoria, DHHS and health professionals, running a series of workshops, forums and interviews to understand the problem space. The insight from this stakeholder group informed a series of initiatives including:

  • Development of a digital Health and Wellbeing Application, the Farmer HAT
  • A new Farmer Health Website, focusing on awareness, engagement, discovery and accessibility of health wellbeing and safety information.

The Delivery phase proceeded for the Farmer Health Website and Farmer HAT product. The Delivery phase used a “Scrum” based framework for managing the software development activities. The Scrum framework is a method for breaking down large complex problems to smaller units of work that can be managed and delivered iteratively. Scrum is largely associated with “Agile” software development practices which is a method for managing software projects that promotes collaboration and flexibility over more rigid methods of traditional project management.

The delivery phase was structured in a series of two-week “Sprints”. Each Sprint was planned to focus on a particular set of features as were described in the User Stories. In each sprint, the User Stories in focus would progress individually through the process, as shown in the User Story Life-cycle diagram below, to progressively detail, build and test the required software.

The project team, comprising a blend of Exco Partners and NCFH staff, would meet each morning via video call in a “Stand-up” meeting to review the progress of the previous day, plan for the next activities and discuss challenges preventing progress. A “Kanban” was used to monitor the status of each User Story through the delivery process. A Kanban is a visual method for monitoring and managing units of work moving through a process. The Kanban, represented virtually for the project team in the Microsoft DevOps platform, was key to being able to collaborate on the project delivery with the team members needing to work remotely due to COVID.

The NCFH Farmer Health Website and Farmer HAT launched in September 2020 projected to serve over 50 thousand unique users in the first 12 months since launch and over 100 thousand page views.

  1. Safe work Australia. (2017) Traumatic Injury Fatalities database and national Data Set for Compensation-Based Statistics.