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National Farmworker Health Day: A celebration of migrant clinicians across the country, a review of how far we’ve come, and a reminder of the work that remains

FarmworkersToday is National Farmworker Health Day, sponsored by the National Association of Community Health Centers. And, while we celebrate the 50-year-long and thriving partnership between health centers and farmworkers, we still have a long way to go. 

Over 50 years ago, the documentary Harvest of Shame exposed the living conditions of this nation’s migrant farmworkers. In response, the Migrant Health Act of 1962 was signed.  Meanwhile, Dr. Jack Geiger and his associates pioneered the community health center movement to assist just such vulnerable workers. And yet, half a century later, migrant farmworkers still lag woefully behind other workers in access to health care, living conditions, and workplace safety measures and protections. Agriculture remains the most dangerous profession in the country. Clinicians still lack sufficient education and tools to properly diagnose and report workplace injuries affecting farmworkers like pesticide exposures. 

But National Farmworker Day is not just a day to promote awareness of the continuing plight of farmworkers. It is a day of celebration for the many thousands of clinicians working hard in health centers and other community organizations across the country to assure that farmworkers receive the care and attention that they need, on the farm and in the clinic. Over 900,000 migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families are currently served in over 150 migrant health centers. Thousands more farmworkers have received care through voucher model programs, some of which are not health centers at all but patient management system covering enormous geographic areas and focused specifically on migratory workers like farmworkers.

FarmworkersMCN is dedicated to supporting clinicians through programs like Workers and Health, where we help community health centers integrate environmental and occupational health issues like pesticide exposure into their primary care. We support migrants directly through programs like Health Network, our innovative and effective bridge case management system, which links migrants to care as they move.  And we continue to be active in advocacy efforts that will most affect the daily lives of our farmworkers, like health care access issues related to the Affordable Care Act and policies on immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border. 

So, as we celebrate National Farmworker Health Day, we want to applaud the hard work of all the health centers across our country. To your health!

Learn more about National Health Center Week, of which National Farmworker Health Day is a part, at http://www.healthcenterweek.org/. Read more about the National Association of Community Health Centers here

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