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In the Fields: Learning about Barriers to Occupational Health in Primary Care

MCN Jillian Juliana at Salud Para La GenteThis week, Juliana Simmons, MSPH, MCN’s Environmental and Occupational Health Program Manager, met up on the foggy central California coast with Jillian Hopewell, MPA, MA, MCN’s Director of Education and Professional Development. The MCN duo conducted a site visit at Salud Para La Gente, a group of four health clinics in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, which include the fertile Salinas Valley. The site visit is part of a project to better understand the barriers to occupational health in a primary care setting. The project, entitled “Communicating Occupational Safety and Health in Community and Migrant Health Centers,” is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

The resulting data from the visit will be utilized in developing recommendations for NIOSH. “The interviews and focus groups will inform our report on the barriers to work-related health and possible strategies for overcoming these challenges,” Juliana said.

To collect the data, Juliana and Jillian met with individuals at all levels of the organization, including the CEO, the CMO, systems/data analysts, community outreach staff, medical assistants, front office staff, billing specialists, and the referrals coordinator. They also had the opportunity to meet with frontline providers in obstetrics, family practice, and behavioral health.

MCN at Salud Para La GenteJuliana noted that Salud’s work on occupational health makes the center an ideal partner in the project. Salud’s CEO, Dori Rose Inda has a strong background in occupational health and coauthored a guide for community health centers in California, entitled, "Providing Medical Services to Low-Wage Workers with Job Injuries.”

“We were fortunate to meet with staff at all levels of the organization, and were struck by how bright and committed staff members are to their roles and to the organization's mission,” noted Juliana.  She noted the breadth of “great work being done by the health center,” addressing a wide range of community needs.

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