Mobility is a way of life for seasonal and migrant farmworkers, as is exposure to occupational hazards and countless health risks. Staying healthy is often difficult for this vulnerable population that is characteristically low-income and underinsured or uninsured.
A seasonal farmworker primarily works in agriculture during the growing season. A migrant farmworker also works in agriculture on a seasonal basis but moves around to do so.
To help seasonal and migrant farmworkers access the health care they need and to overcome language, transportation, cost, and scheduling barriers, several Michigan Community Health Centers offer medical and dental care tailored specifically for this population. That entails physicians providing culturally appropriate medical care in the communities in which the patients work.
“Part of our mission is to serve farmworkers and their families because we believe all people have the right to equal access to quality health care,” said Velma Hendershott, President and Chief Executive Officer of InterCare Community Health Network.
InterCare Community Health Network has been providing quality health care for seasonal and migrant farmworkers in the heart of west and southwest Michigan’s fruit and vegetable belt for over 30 years. Approximately 425 migrant camps are located in this Community Health Center’s service area, which includes Berrien, Van Buren, Cass, Allegan, Ottawa, and Kent Counties. Berrien and Van Buren Counties rank first and second in the state of Michigan’s seasonal census of agricultural workers.
Across the state in Monroe and Lenawee Counties, Family Medical Center of Michigan is the primary health care provider for seasonal and migrant farmworkers in the southeast corner of Michigan. Since 2000, the number of seasonal and migrant patients of this Community Health Center have increased by 34% and 22% respectively.
“Reaching seasonal and migrant farmworkers is a challenge since they are usually a moving target,” said Judith Williams, MPH, MSW, CSW, Executive Director of Northwest Michigan Health Services, Inc.
This Northern Michigan Community Health Center recently initiated a multi-disciplinary learning program for consumer outreach. “Project Puente”, or the “Bridge Project”, gives college-level interns training and experience in working with seasonal and migrant farmworkers. They provide lay health education, conduct active research, and interview patients to maximize limited resources and enrich patient encounters.
Like its counterparts, Heath Delivery, Inc. of Saginaw stretches its tentacles across multiple counties and thousands of square miles to reach seasonal and migrant farmworkers. It operates a comprehensive migrant health program in Manchester, Imlay City, Belding, and Caro.
Health Delivery, Inc. provides health care that is sensitive to the needs of the community by being close to where the patients live, at times that are convenient, and speaking in a language that patients can understand.
For more information about Michigan’s Community Health Centers, visit the Michigan Primary Care Association’s web site at www.mpca.net. Michigan Primary Care Association is the nonprofit membership organization representing providers of community-based primary care in Michigan. Its mission is to promote, support and develop comprehensive, accessible and affordable quality primary health care services to everyone in Michigan.