Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, R25-OH-008334, 2011 Mar; :1-56
"Promoting the Occupational Health of Indigenous Farmworkers," a NIOSH-funded project, was designed to achieve a better understanding of the occupational health concerns of indigenous' Mexican and Central American populations that migrate to the United States to work in agriculture, and to develop community-based strategies to address these needs. Indigenous agricultural workers are among the poorest and most vulnerable groups in Oregon today. Isolated by linguistic, cultural, and economic barriers, they often work in low-paying, dangerous jobs, and may lack knowledge of the health risks involved or the safety and legal resources available. Because indigenous farmworkers are often highly mobile and speak a variety of languages bearing no resemblance to Spanish, there has been a paucity of information available to help identify and address these workers' most pressing health and safety concerns. In response to this need, a group of indigenous community educators, farmworker advocates, labor union representatives, environmental scientists, and health care providers came together to design and conduct this project. Partner organizations included the Oregon Law Center, Salud Medical Center, Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste (PCUN), and Portland State University School of Community Health. Project consultants included Farmworker Justice Fund, Inc. (now Farmworker Justice) and Dr. Linda McCauley. The project used a multiple-track, community-based approach, drawing on the experiences and ideas of indigenous farmworkers themselves in order to develop culturally appropriate strategies to increase their base knowledge, improve access to services, and bring tangible change to their communities. To gather information about community needs, the project conducted six focus groups with indigenous and Latino farmworkers about their occupational health and safety concerns. In addition, the project conducted two focus groups with health care providers at two medical clinics serving migrant populations in the region. The project used the feedback from the focus groups to design a broader survey which was administered to 150 Latino and indigenous farmworkers in Oregon's Willamette Valley. After the results were analyzed, the project administered a follow-up survey to an additional 150 workers. Through these methods, the project learned that indigenous farmworkers lack critical information about workplace health and safety risks, particularly pesticide exposure. Most of the indigenous workers reached through this project also lacked awareness of their legal rights pertaining to health and safety training and working conditions such as field sanitation, They lacked basic information about the steps to take and the resources available to address violations of the legal provisions that were designed to make their workplaces safer. They often did not receive even the standard training in workplace safety, and felt that they could not fully benefit from available training opportunities because of language and cultural barriers. The indigenous farmworkers we encountered were very interested in obtaining information to improve the level of their occupational health and safety in a manner that would make sense to their communities' unique circumstances and cultural characteristics. The project used various modes of outreach to invite the communities' participation in the study. The modes of outreach themselves were developed in consultation with our indigenous community educators and refined through feedback from the communities. We emphasized training opportunities to build leadership skills for the indigenous community educators who staffed the project. We also developed culturally and linguistically appropriate educational materials and created a promo/ores (peer educator) program to increase community awareness about the dangers of pesticide exposure, self-help methods to reduce exposure, and workers' legal rights related to occupational health and safety.
Nargess Shadbeh, Oregon Law Center, 921 SW Washington St., #516, Portland, OR 97205