In the Field: Occupational Health for Farmworkers in Kansas
This week, MCN’s Amy K. Liebman, MPA, MA, Director of Environmental and Occupational Health, and Candace Kugel, FNP, CNM, Specialist in Clinical Systems and Women’s Health headed to Topeka, Kansas to lead an Introduction to Environmental and Occupational Health training, the first training in a yearlong collaboration to integrate a focus on environmental and occupational health into Kansas primary care and its Statewide Farmworker Program.
In this first round of training, MCN worked with 12 case managers, promotores, and administrators with the Kansas Statewide Farmworker Health Program, a voucher program housed in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that facilitates access to care for agricultural workers and their families.
“Of those 12, at least six talked about their own or family members’ experiences in farm work, so they are remarkably tuned into the population and their health care needs,” said Kugel. The in-person introductory course included information on occupational and environmental health incidence, specific risks associated with agricultural work, and the role of health care workers in educating patients and managing work-related illnesses and injuries. Numerous resources were provided.
The Kansas farmworker community is spread out throughout the state, and is diverse. Roughly 22 percent of the Kansas farmworker patient population are low speaking German Mennonites, mostly located in the western part of the state. Most of these farmworkers lived and farmed in Mexico before immigrating to the United States. Many are undocumented, and most do not speak Spanish. “This presents some interesting challenges culturally and linguistically for the program,” Kugel noted, including when addressing occupational health concerns.
“All of the training participants recognized the importance of addressing environmental and occupational health for the patient population,” noted Liebman, adding that they were familiar with many of the hazards of farm work and resulting illnesses. “They were excited to initiate the partnership with MCN and have a program dedicated to improving the recognition and management of environmental and occupational health conditions.”
The training was the first step for the Kansas Statewide Farmworker Health Program to become a Center of Excellence in Environmental and Occupational Health. The trainings are part of MCN’s Workers and Health program, supported by the Environmental Protection Agency. MCN’s Centers of Excellence complete a one-year program of on-site training and technical assistance to develop simple, practical, and flexible adaptations to integrate environmental and occupational health into their primary care setting. Currently, 14 health centers in the US and Puerto Rico have been designated as Centers of Excellence.
Simultaneously, hundreds of miles away in Puerto Rico, Corporación de Servicios Médicos, participated in its second training in the Workers and Health program. This week’s session, focused on pesticide exposures, was led by Jose Rodriguez, MD, Hospital General Castañer’s Medical Director and a regional expert in the clinical recognition and management of pesticide exposures. Visit MCN’s Facebook or Twitter to check out a slideshow of the Puerto Rico training.
Photos from the training: