FARMWORKERS: Study Documents Widespread Health Problems
In an ongoing study "believed to be the first of its kind," two San Joaquin Valley doctors have determined that "[p]oor dental hygiene, high cholesterol, diabetes and an aversion to doctors are all major factors in the health" of area farmworkers. Led by Drs. Marcia and Oscar Sablan, bilingual researchers have sought the cooperation of local farmers, asking them to fill out a 60- page questionnaire and undergo a physical in exchange for $30. Marcia Sablan "attributes the high cholesterol levels to diet and nutrition," specifically due to immigrant farmworkers inability to adapt to "the high-fat, fast-food diets they develop while they are in the United States." While 25% of the men surveyed thus far do not visit doctors, she said, "Another piece of information we are getting is the percentage that don't have a third-party payer insurance, which we think inhibits people from going to the doctor. We all pretty much feel there is a lack of health care available for the farmworker." Ann Souter, the team's coordinator in the Firebaugh community, said fear of deportation often steers immigrant workers away from the doctor as well. Daniel Williams, the project coordinator for the California Institute of Rural Studies, which is funding the project, said diabetes and high cholesterol came up in portions of the study conducted in the towns of Mecca in Riverside County and Vista in San Diego County as well. "We are also finding a lot of people going to Mexico for medical care and many who use home remedies when they don't have access to care," he said. The Fresno Bee reports that only about one-third of the 1,000 interviews planned are complete. Remaining communities to which researchers will travel are Cutler in Tulare County, Gonzales in Monterey County and Calistoga in Sonoma County. Sablan said the study will "offer data that have never been collected previously and serve as a planning tool for county, state and federal health officials in developing medical programs to better meet farmworkers' needs." She said, "Everyone pretty much knows these things, but you have to have the study first to prove it" (Benjamin, 9/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.