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Supporting Health for Agricultural Workers

Updated: Aug 8, 2023

Washington migrant health centers continue to inspire us with their passion for this work and determination to meet folks where they are at!

-Patricia Gepert, Health Access Senior Coordinator

Back in May, the Association attended the Conference for Agricultural Worker Health hosted by the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC). We were joined by several of our member health centers who have a specific focus on serving migrant and agricultural workers and their families. The Association supports that work through partnerships and trainings that are highlighted below.

Agricultural Workers and Community Health Centers

Serving the unique health needs of agricultural workers strongly aligns with the mission of community health centers, who are focused on providing comprehensive, integrated care to those often excluded from care. Agricultural workers in the U.S. experience barriers to accessing quality health care including mobility, lack of income, English limitations, health beliefs, and not knowing where to go.

According to UDS data, our member Community Health Centers (CHCs) serve 100,200 agricultural workers. Most are served through the Migrant Health Centers, who receive funding through the federal Public Health Service (PHS) Act due to the number of migratory and seasonal agricultural workers they serve. In 2023, these health centers are:

These CHCs meet patients where they are by providing comprehensive healthcare through mobile medical and dental clinics set up during high migrant season at work sites, farmworker camps and housing sites, facilitating access to telehealth, cultivating relationships with agricultural employers, and operating non-traditional hours. Our member CHCs are responsive to the specific needs of the communities they serve. For example, Sea Mar Community Health Centers recognized that linguistic diversity and isolation were barriers to care. To meet this need, they have indigenous-language speaking staff in clinics and recruit indigenous-speaking promotores de salud from the same communities they serve (learn more about promotores below).

NACHC’s Conference for Agricultural Worker Health

At the May conference, Association staff facilitated showcase presentations and panel discussions by Columbia Valley Community Health and Yakima Neighborhood Health Services on providing access to care for agricultural workers and their families, promising practices, and challenges. Moses Lake Community Health Center and Sea Mar Community Health Center also participated as panelists and as by offering site visits. While NACHC was in Seattle for the conference, they also visited Sea Mar’s Museum of Chicano/a/Latino/a Culture. The museum offers a social justice-focused view of Chicano/a/Latino/a history starting with post-war migration. The collection includes documents, photos, artifacts, and the stories of Chicano/a/Latino/a people.

WA Migrant Health Centers Panel Discussion – Bob Marsalli (CEO, Association), Dulce Negrete (Clinic Manager, CVCH), Manuel Navarro (CEO, CVCH), & Rhonda Hauff (CEO, YNHS)

Visit to Sea Mar Museum of Chicano/a/Latino/a Culture - photo includes Rachel Gonzales-Hanson, Interim President & CEO, NACHC, & Mary Bartolo, Executive VP, Sea Mar

Promotores Trainings

The Association is also proud to support promotores de salud trainings like the annual Promotores Intensive. Promotores de salud are community health workers who help connect patients to care at the health centers and community resources. These individuals are trusted community members who provide one-on-one, in-language support to patients where they live and feel safe. Our member CHCs have shared that they have been able to see more patients, reduce technology barriers, and extend their services to patients in more rural areas because of these community health workers.

At the end of May, a diverse group of over 100 community leaders, including 29 staff from community health centers, attended the 2023 Washington State Promotor/CHW Network Training in Ellensburg. Trainers at the free, multi-day event used popular Spanish-language education techniques to train promotores on a variety of topics, including leadership development, ag worker safety, Alzheimer’s Disease, breast and cervical health programs, the fentanyl crisis, paid family medical leave, worker’s rights, and immigration.

The intensive training provided opportunities to connect with the community, enjoy a performance by traditional Aztec dance group Ceatl Tonalli, and network with promotors/CHWs. It was organized by Moses Lake Community Health Center, Community Health of Central Washington, Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, Chelan-Douglas Health District, Vision y Compromiso, Northwest Regional Primary Care Association and the Association. 

The training celebrated Promotores/Community Health Workers who truly work from the heart to connect their communities to needed resources and access to health care!”

-Patricia Gepert, Health Access Senior Coordinator

National Center for Farmworker Health

National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH) partners with the Association to support the participation of Washington health centers in the Increase Access to Care for Ag Workers (IAC) program. The IAC program aims to assist health center staff in accurately identifying and reporting their Agricultural worker patients in the UDS through training opportunities, learning collaborative activities, action planning and technical assistance to help health centers modify their current systems and registration processes to demonstrate their effectiveness.

To support Washington health centers’ participation in the IAC program, NCFH holds periodic check-in calls and an annual training specifically for the Association. Health center staff are trained on how to correctly identify, register and report ag workers and their family members, share promising practices and challenges, and learn about resources to support this work. The training introduces new staff to the IAC program and is a refresher for staff who are already familiar. NCFH offers topic expert support on challenges and needs raised by staff.

If your health center serves agricultural workers and wants to learn more about participating in IAC, please contact Patricia Gepert and Kadie Koeneman.

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