MCN Brings Much-Needed Farmworker, Clinician Perspectives to Pesticide Conference
Alma Galván, MCH, MCN’s Senior Program Manager; Laszlo Madaras, MD, MPH, MCN’s Chief Medical Officer, Eva Galvez, MD, from MCN’s Board of Directors; Mily Treviño-Sauceda, Executive Director of Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc.; and Amy Liebman, MPA,
MCN’s Director of Environmental and Occupational Health, at PACT 2021.
Last week, when Migrant Clinicians Network’s Alma Galván, MCH, provided the welcome remarks at the Pesticide Applicator Certification and Training Conference, she looked out at a different crowd than in previous years. In addition to the typical attendees – from university extensions, government agencies, and agricultural groups – were farmworker advocates, many of whom come from farmworker families, and several clinicians who serve farmworker communities. MCN arranged for their inclusion, along with representatives from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, to ensure inclusion of all stakeholders participating in and impacted by important safety pesticide regulations including the Worker Protection Standard and the Certified Pesticide Applicator Rule.
"This was the first time that PACT has had such a diversity of stakeholders,” noted Galván. “And it was really important to include the farmworker and health perspectives.”
Eva Galvez, MD, from MCN’s Board of Directors, discusses how occupation affects primary care.
The conference, organized by Michigan State University under a cooperative agreement from the US Environmental Protection Agency, covered a broad range of topics, from respiratory protection education, to state-level pesticide legislation, to an off-site industrial hemp tour. MCN participated as a subawardee of MSU's grant. MCN's Chief Medical Officer, Laszlo Madaras, MD, MPH, provided insight as a Pennsylvania doctor serving farmworkers who have experienced pesticide exposure. Eva Galvez, MD, from MCN's Board of Directors and a family physician for a farmworker community in Oregon, talked about the importance of understanding occupation in medicine. MCN’s Director of Environmental and Occupational Health, Amy Liebman, MPA, organized and moderated several plenary sessions concerning the Worker Protection Standard and helped facilitate several breakout sessions.
The conference opened with a powerful “fireside” chat with a grower, clinician, and farmworker advocate. "It was important to hear the perspectives of all stakeholders. The response, particularly to the clinicians, explaining how they handle exposures and the lack of training in occupational health, was strong,” Galván said.
Farmworker advocates included long-time MCN partners Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, Inc., Farmworker Association of Florida, Florida State University, Campesinos sin Fronteras, Farmworker Justice, Mujeres Divinas, and Líderes Campesinas.
The MCN team at PACT 2021: Alma Galván, MHC, Amy Liebman, MPA, Laszlo Madaras, MD, MPH, Leslie Rodriguez, JD, Marysel Pagán Santana, DrPh, and Myrellis Muñiz-Márquez.
Additionally joining virtually and in person were organizations from the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The conference offered an opportunity for Caribbean organizations to join in with Pacific Island-based groups, as the islands share some similar issues like invasive species and the need for integrated pest management. MCN’s team from Puerto Rico team also participated in the the conference and helped connect Caribbean stakeholders. "Prior to the meeting we conducted a needs assessment in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico and found that stakeholders were excited to have more opportunities such as the PACT meeting,” Galván commented.
Most of the response from participants was positive, although some were troubled by what they heard from farmworkers, around exposure and lack of safety. “It's really important for farmworkers’ perspectives and experiences to be included,” Galván added. “We are excited to continue the conversation, dialogue and partnership.”
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