Small Town News

Health

Survey reveals local farmworkers face housing and health inequities

Cloverdale Reveille of Cloverdale, California

- Advertisement -

Study is first of its kind

Most Sonoma County farmworkers are permanent county residents and live with their families; they live in unaffordable and overcrowded housing conditions and nearly all farmworker families earn insufficient incomes to meet their family's basic needs.

Due to limited health insurance coverage, farmworkers have restricted access to preventative and medical care and farmworkers experience significant health disparities.

This information was compiled in a study recently released by the Sonoma County Department of Health Services (DHS). The data describes the health status of farmworkers and discusses the health inequities among members of the Sonoma County community.

The first-ever study revealed that agriculture is one of the most demanding and high-risk industries for hired workers. Farmworkers experience higher rates of unintentional fatal and occupational injuries and face a higher prevalence of chronic diseases than the general public. Previous research also indicates that many farmworkers lack high-quality, affordable housing options and that housing affects health.

Fourth District

Supervisor James Gore said that the survey "sheds light on one of the biggest shadows in our community." He said that a recent study by the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission showed that more than 60 percent of Sonoma County's economy is derived from the vineyard and wine industry. Most of the farmworkers (92 percent) in the DHS study reported working with grapes. Wine grapes grossed nearly $600 million in Sonoma County in 2012.

"These people, these farmworkers, are the backbone of the biggest industry in our community, and they deserve our respect and our diligent efforts to bring them and their families out of the shadows as full members of our communities," Gore said.

Gore said that one of his most important goals as a County Supervisor is to find ways to encourage the integration of the farmworker and Latino communities and the Anglo community. "The best place where that happens is in our schools, but at the same time it's dependent upon us to bring that integration into our civic organizations, government and businesses," he said.

Gore said that the county and local towns are doing substantial outreach into the farmworking community, especially through health centers.

"In North County, one of the main drivers of the wine industry, we have the Alliance Medical Center clinics in Windsor and Healdsburg and we also have Alexander Valley Healthcare in Cloverdale. The majority of these health centers' services go not just to the Latino community, but to supporting farmworkers," Gore said.

Alexander Valley

Healthcare CEO Deborah Howell said that 16 percent of the center's patients are uninsured. Alexander Valley

Healthcare offers the same services to insured and uninsured patients, with uninsured patients paying an amount based on a sliding scale. Howell wasn't surprised by the results of the survey, and said they reflect what she witnesses in her patients.

"These are things that we already knew. We take care of [farmworkers] and provide a sliding scale so it's affordable, based on their income, which is the lowest fee possible," Howell said. "The bad news is they don't come in unless they're sick. They don't do preventative medicine, and that is unfortunate, but I understand they can't afford it."

"I think we're doing as much as we can, we'd like to do more," Howell said, adding that there may be a program coming out in 2016 for undocumented adult uninsured patients.

293 Sonoma County farmworkers were contacted for the survey between September 2013 and January 2014. Venue-based sampling was conducted at key sites where farmworkers were located, which included day labor centers, community health clinics and farms throughout Sonoma County. The survey can be accessed online at the DHS website: sonomacounty.org/health/publications/.



Copyright 2015 Cloverdale Reveille, Cloverdale, California. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: November 5, 2015



More from Cloverdale Reveille