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Environmental and Occupational Health at Midwest Stream Forum

MWSF15This week, I joined Ricardo Garay, MCN’s Health Network Manager, and Theressa Lyons, MCN’s Training and Technical Assistance Coordinator, to represent MCN at the Midwest Stream Farmworker Health Forum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The annual Midwest Stream Forum, along with the East Coast Migrant Stream Forum and the Western Forum for Migrant and Community Health, bring clinicians together to discuss health issues at the forefront of migrant health. MCN’s Environmental and Occupational Health team has unique expertise to offer clinicians in order to help them better address the work-related injuries and illnesses of their patients. 

I presented on the newly revised Worker Protection Standard (WPS) with Virginia Ruiz of Farmworker Justice. The WPS is the primary federal regulation that provides workplace protections for farmworkers to reduce exposure to pesticides -- and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued stronger regulations in September for the first time in over 20 years. Our session covered: 1) how farmworkers are exposed to pesticides and the health risks they pose; 2) changes in the WPS 3) how these changes in WPS will impact agricultural workers and their families; and 4) the roles and responsibilities of clinicians and other stakeholders regarding worker protection.  We also provided resources to clinicians help prepare them to diagnose and report pesticide exposures, emphasizing the importance of the EPA’s Recognition and Management of Pesticide Poisonings, 6th Ed. and MCN’s Pesticide Reporting Map.

MWSF15The attendees were eager to hear about the improvements to the WPS and the role their health centers could play in protecting farmworkers from pesticide exposure.  I talked about MCN’s Workers and Health program, an initiative supported by the EPA to train clinicians.  Several participants were interested in a partnership with MCN to receive more in-depth training and technical assistance in order to better recognize, manage and prevent pesticide exposure in their patients.  I emphasized that clinician reporting is a critical way in which the EPA receives information about the human health effects of pesticides on the market.  We know that cases of pesticide exposure frequently go undiagnosed and unreported, and MCN has an important role to play in ensuring that clinicians are trained to recognize and report exposure. 

This is my second time attending a Stream Forum.  Both times, I’ve heard extensive positive feedback and praise regarding the important work MCN does. The Stream Forums are a great way for us to hear directly from health centers, understand their needs, and think about ways to collaborate to improve the health of their migrant patients.

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