Program Seeks to Reduce Spread of Infectious Diseases Among Ventura County Farm Workers
A new, two-year program in Ventura County is seeking to reduce the spread of infectious diseases by focusing on the county's farm workers, providing them with disease screenings and encouraging them to seek follow-up care, the Los Angeles Times reports. The majority of the state's one million agricultural workers do not have health insurance and cannot afford to see a doctor. The lack of health coverage among farm workers is "so acute" that in 1999 the California Endowment established a five-year, $50 million grant to address the issue. Infectious diseases such as gonorrhea, chlamydia and hepatitis often are spread among agricultural communities because workers do not receive regular screenings and are unaware that they are infected. Many of the diseases do not have symptoms in the early stages, the Times reports. To combat the spread of such diseases among farm workers, the Ventura County Medical Resource Foundation and four rural health centers operated by Santa Paula Memorial Hospital and Ventura County Medical Center have designed the La Familia Sana -- Healthy Family -- initiative with the aid of a two-year, $500,000 grant from the California Endowment and $30,000 from the county's share of tobacco settlement funds. Under the program, which targets men because they are least likely to seek health care for a "variety of reasons," specially trained social workers, called "los promotores," will talk with workers at migrant work camps about their health concerns and provide them with information about health services available at the four rural clinics. Outreach specialists also will visit churches, schools, laundromats and other locations to speak to the families of farm workers with the goal of reaching 15,000 people annually over the next two years. Program planners hope that at least 7,000 of those people will seek further care, which experts say is "crucial" to controlling the spread of infectious diseases in the county, which recorded 1,206 cases of chlamydia in 2000 compared to 983 in 1999, according to the county Public Health Service (Covarrubias, Los Angeles Times, 6/16).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.