National Public Health Week: Be Healthy from the Start

April 7th begins the 2014 National Public Health Week! Today’s theme, “Be healthy from the start,” is especially important when bringing awareness to the current state of farmworker health in this country. Today, we focus on farmworker children and access to health care.

Individuals with health insurance are more likely to seek medical care. In the U.S., a staggering number of farmworker children do not have health insurance. Data on farmworkers and their families are hard to collect because of the seasonal and migratory nature of farm work. For this reason, we focus on statistics that describe rural Latinos in the U.S.:

• 31% of rural Latino children are uninsured, compared to 15% of African-American children and 18% of non-Hispanic white children.
• Only 33% of first-generation immigrant children are continuously insured.
• Rural Latino children whose parents are immigrants are even more likely to lack health insurance, even though the majority of them qualify for enrollment in Medicaid or the Child Health Insurance program (CHIP).

Cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are among the top five causes of death for Latinos in the U.S. The burden of these conditions can be lessened or prevented under the regular care of a physician. Children with health insurance are more likely to have a regular source of health care than children without health insurance. Children who receive regular medical care may grow into adults that value preventative care.

Farmworker Justice is working to diminish the disparity in health care coverage experienced by rural Latino children in the U.S. In the coming weeks, we will be rolling out a program called Conexiones: Connecting Rural Latino Families to Medicaid and CHIP. Four community-based organizations in Florida, North Carolina, California, and Arizona will work with Farmworker Justice to train promotores de salud (lay health workers) to conduct outreach in their communities. They will educate their peers on the eligibility requirements for enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP and help to connect them to state and local resources. In two years, the promotores de salud are expected to reach over 14,000 rural Latinos with information on Medicaid and CHIP, which will increase health care coverage of children in their communities substantially.

This program utilizes the promotores de salud model because these community health workers are extremely effective in engaging in outreach in their communities, especially with hard-to-reach populations. Often sharing the same language and cultural background as those receiving their outreach efforts, they know best where to find their fellow community members and how to effectively deliver important messages about health and in this case, access to health care.