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Health

Funding Sources
  • National Center for Farmworker Health
  • NYSDOH/Maternal & Child Health
  • NYSED/Migrant Education
  • Florida SED/Migrant Education
  • Wayne Health Group

The Center has responded to these needs with:

  • direct health services - on-site screening, referral to medical centers, and a dental clinic
  • in the early years of the Children's Demonstration School, three meals a day for the migrant children attending classes
  • a Food Pantry, supported by Foodlink, Wegmans Food Markets, and private donations, for migrants and other poor rural families
  • a health education for farmworkers, with information in Spanish and English distributed nationwide
Agricultural work is hard, sometimes hazardous. Accidents often happen on the job. "Stoop" work, repetitive motion, and exposure to dust and pesticides all have consequences for health. Though they help make us "the best fed nation on earth", farmworkers are not always well-nourished themselves. Poor diet makes for poor health. Yet transient migrants may not meet residency requirements for Medicaid. Lacking any other health insurance, they can fall through the cracks of the American health care system.

90% of the students in the Children's Demonstration School had never seen a dentist. The Center operates an evening Dental Clinic each season. In 1995 the Clinic found a permanent site at the Livingston County Campus in Mount Morris. In 1997 it served 93 individuals in a total of 221 visits.

In 1971 the Center Director, Dr. Gloria Mattera, asked a local pediatrician, Dr. Arnold Matlin, to examine children attending the Demonstration School. Her charge to him was: "Let's do it now; the children can't wait." Many children he saw had chronic ear and skin problems. Some, like one boy with congenital heart disease whose parents feared to take him to a hospital, had even more serious needs.

On-site health screening also began in 1971, with visits to camps by a school nurse, Jeanne Stearns. Since then, nurses or physicians' assistants have assessed farmworkers' needs, looking for previously undiagnosed but treatable conditions, like hypertension, back problems, and respiratory disease. They provide some primary care and arrange referral and transportation to clinics. In 1997, 94 individuals were seen a total of 218 times by health professionals.

Community Health Centers at Rushville in Yates County and Oak Orchard in western Monroe County serve the area's farmworkers. 

Dr. Matlin remembers one extreme case found through in-camp health screening. A diabetic man had severe osteomyelitis. An ulcer had eaten through his skin and flesh into the bone. Lacking money, insurance, or first aid supplies, he had stuffed the ulcer with toilet paper and kept on working. With the Center's intervention, he was finally admitted to a hospital, where the ulcer was treated.

SALUD, a health book for migrant farmworkers, was published in Spanish and English in 1984, with funding from the U.S. Public Health Service Migrant Health Program, Community Sponsored initiatives.

Bilingual clipsheets on family health issues have been developed since 1993. They are disseminated nationally. Topics addressed in the clipsheets include (among many others) nutrition, pesticides, substance abuse, AIDS, tuberculosis, breastfeeding, cancer, back care, and arthritis.

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