Celebrating America’s Migrant Health Centers: How health centers are working to comprehensively address the needs of our country’s agricultural workers

Farmworker Health Day Podcast – Q&A with Carlos Castaneda | Music: www.bensound.com

This year we are celebrating all of the innovative ways health centers create better lives for their communities. Today, during Farmworker Health Day, we are highlighting all of the health centers that serve our nation’s agricultural workers. As agricultural workers continue to contribute billions of dollars annually to our country’s fruit and vegetable industry, health centers provide the support they need in order to access health care and overcome many of the health vulnerabilities working in the fields entails. Today’s guest contributor is Carlos Castaneda. Carlos is the Outreach Director at Adelante Healthcare in the greater Phoenix area of Arizona, and he will discuss the work Adelante does to bring agricultural workers into their clinics for much-needed health care. 

Guest contributor: Carlos Castaneda

The agricultural workers the Adelante Healthcare Farmworker Health Program serves face many of the same challenges that agricultural workers across the nation. Lack of transportation, accessible clinics, and high cost of health care can be significant barriers to these farmworkers’ health and wellbeing. The Phoenix Metropolitan area once had farm fields immediately adjacent to the outskirts of the city. However, the sprawl of the city’s borders have pushed arable farmland to the rural areas of Maricopa County. Where once farmland and farmworkers could be found within miles of the health centers, they are now working between 30 and 50 miles away from these centers. Very few of the farmworkers we see have access to transportation, so access to care for them can be an incredible challenge.

In an effort to address these barriers to health care and better serve the agricultural workers in our area, Adelante has streamlined many of our internal processes to make it easier and quicker for workers to be seen when they make it to one of our health centers. First, outside of the health center, the outreach team collaborates with the growers to conduct eligibility and enrollment fairs in the migrant housing complexes which expedites the patient on-boarding process. Once patients are enrolled, they can either call to schedule an appointment or simply show up at the health center to be seen by a provider, already established as an Adelante patient. If the workers have an acute need that is not an emergency, they can call our Outreach Patient Satisfaction Specialist to walk them through the enrollment process over the phone. By the time the farmworker arrives to one of our health centers, they are set with an appointment to see a provider. Eliminating administrative hassle and streamlining on-boarding procedures specifically for the agricultural worker population have made it easier for these individuals to be seen as quickly and effortlessly as possible once they are at the health centers, saving them valuable time and expense.

Adelante further conducts outreach within the farmworker community by collaborating with all of the Migrant Education Programs throughout the county. Recently we hosted a Mother’s Day Appreciation Luncheon in Mesa where we honored over 70 hard-working moms from the Mesa Migrant Education Program. We also sponsor several yearly back-to-school events during which we give away backpacks filled with school supplies to the children of farmworker families. We strive to go beyond the health care needs of the communities we serve and connect residents to education and other social programs for the wellbeing of their families. During our next farmworker enrollment campaign, we will bring long sleeve breathable cotton t-shirts, sunblock, and hydration education to help workers manage the extreme heat of the Arizona desert fields.

Advocacy for health centers, especially for those serving agricultural workers, is so critical countless communities across the country. In my experience at Adelante, corporate support is sparse, and the county health department is overburdened with health concerns from the larger urban community. Although Maricopa County does support our efforts in providing immunizations to farmworkers and their families, local agricultural communities heavily rely on Adelante for the vast majority of their primary and preventive health care needs. Without the Farmworker Health Program, agricultural workers in our area would not have affordable access to many basic health care services. Furthermore, because of our deep roots in the community as a Migrant Health Center, we truly understand the linguistic, social, and cultural barriers these communities face on a daily basis. Our team of four Farmworker Health Outreach Workers is small, but I am proud to serve alongside colleagues that are dedicated and passionate about this program and our farmworkers.


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