Study Finds Farm Workers Have ‘Unmet’ Health Care Needs
The California Institute for Rural Studies released yesterday a new study on the health care status and needs of the state's estimated 1.4 million
farm workers, the Fresno Bee reports. Dr. Robert Ross, the president and CEO of the California Endowment, which sponsored the survey, said that farm workers have "tremendous unmet health needs." Researchers interviewed and examined workers from the farming communities of Vista in San Diego County, Mecca in Riverside County, Arbuckle in Colusa County, Calistoga in Napa County, Gonzalez in Monterey County, Firebaugh in Fresno County and Cutler/Orosi in Tulare County (Rodriguez, Fresno Bee, 11/21). The Los Angeles Times reports that despite the farm workers' "relative youth and vigorous physical exertion," workers of both sexes showed more than twice the rate of high blood pressure in the average U.S. adult population. Additional findings include the following:
- Eighty-one percent of men and 76% of women surveyed were overweight, with 28% of men and 37% of women classified as "obese." These statistics ranked relatively high compared to the overall U.S. population, in which 20% of men and 25% of women are obese, according to researchers;
- Farm workers were found to suffer "disproportionately" from anemia and dental diseases, with more than one-third of male workers having at least one decayed tooth and nearly 40% of women reporting at least one broken or missing tooth;
- Fifty percent of male farm workers said they had never been to a dentist, and one-third have never seen a doctor, while 20% of female farm workers have never been to a dentist. The Times reports that women had "far better access to medical treatment" through maternal and child health services.
Researchers attributed the discouraging statistics to "poor nutrition" and "abysmal" access to health care. In addition, while most Americans obtain health insurance through employers, most farm workers do not, and 70% lacked health insurance (Marquis, Los Angeles Times, 11/22). The Fresno Bee reports that many "[w]orkers fear that the information provided to health care workers will be forwarded to immigration officials; others spoke of a lack of transportation and medical insurance and a misunderstanding of the often complex health care system" (Fresno Bee, 11/21). Don Villarejo, founder and director emeritus of the California Institute for Rural Studies, said, "As a public health official, I was quite appalled" by the findings. He added, "The other thing that was surprising was the extent to which people live with pain ... go a year with a toothache. That was a shocker to me." But the findings did not surprise Marc Grossman, spokesperson for the
United Farm Workers, who said the results affirm "what the UFW has known for decades" (Los Angeles Times, 11/22). Study results were released yesterday in Fresno, located in one of the nation's "dominant" agricultural regions (Fresno Bee, 11/21).
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