August 11 during National Health Center Week 2011 is set aside to recognize the role of Community/Migrant Health Centers in providing health care to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. It is estimated that over 3 million workers earn their living through migrant or seasonal farm labor and play an integral role in this country’s agriculture industry. Michigan has the seventh largest migrant/seasonal farmworker population, with over 90,700 migrant and seasonal farmworkers and dependents living and working within the state’s borders at some point during the year.
Migrant and seasonal farmworkers frequently suffer from poor living and working conditions that lead to an array of health problems ranging from work-related injuries, to hypertension, to pesticide related illnesses and infectious diseases. Getting the health care they need can be difficult due to their mobility, low income, lack of insurance, long work hours, and cultural/language barriers.
Community/Migrant Health Centers are a key source of health care for migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Since their inception in 1962 they have been successful at removing barriers to care by providing quality, comprehensive health care in the patients’ own language regardless of income or insurance status; locating in areas that are accessible to migrant and seasonal farmworkers; and customizing their services and hours of operation to meet patients’ needs.
In 2009, 17,772 migrant/seasonal farmworkers received care at Michigan Community/Migrant Health Centers. Each summer a large number of Health Center outreach staff, including health educators and nurses, visit migrant camps to conduct health screenings and share information on health and services available to workers and family members. Health care is also provided through mobile units that take the care to the patients. Michigan is fortunate to have a strong system of care and services for migrant and seasonal farmworkers and families.
For more information about National Health Center Week, visit www.healthcenterweek.org.