The main finding of this pilot study of reproductive health of female migrant and seasonal farmworkers is the demonstration of the feasibility of doing such a study, and the potential to conduct a population-based (community-based) health study in this migrant population. In the past, this occupational population has been neglected and rarely been studied; when studied, the population was clinic-based and thus less representative of female farmworkers as a whole. Our study showed that regardless of the population's mobile status, it can be successfully investigated. The importance of the study, as stated in the objectives, was the development and refinement of appropriate study tools (i.e. questionnaire and biological sampling methods) for future full-scale, community-based studies in this occupational population. The sampling scheme of the study ensured an unbiased random sampling selection process. The bi-lingual, bi-cultural trained interviewers optimized the participation rate among the respondents. The health component of the pilot survey focused primarily on reproductive outcomes, such as miscarriage and low weight births, birthing complications such as premature labor, C-section and breech births, and menstrual cycle patterns in migrant and seasonal farmworker women. The miscarriage and low weight birth rates, 11 % and 7% respectively, lie within the normal range of the U.S. general population, which are 10-15% and 7-10% for miscarriage rates and low weight birth rates, respectively. The pre-mature labor rate was 12% in farmworking women which is comparable to the general U.S. population rate of 15%. Menstrual cycle patterns among the study participants with an average of 4.3 days of bleeding length and 28.4 days of menstrual cycle length did not show much variability, and are comparable to average menstrual cycle pattern ranges of the general U.S. female population. The high percentage of uninsured and low income women in this study shows that this population is potentially vulnerable to adverse health outcomes, particularly given the existing occupational and environmental conditions.
University of California, Institute of Environmental Health Research, Department of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, Davis, CA 95616