I joined the Healthcare Foundation’s Board of Directors in January. As a nurse and health administrator who has worked for years to serve our region’s most marginalized residents, I consider it an important opportunity to help steer an organization that is not only committed to eliminating health inequities in northern Sonoma County, but is humble and wise enough to be always looking to learn more in order to make that vision a reality.
As local news has highlighted and scholarly studies have shown, including UC Merced’s recent Farmworker Health in California: Health in a Time of Contagion, Drought, and Climate Change (funded by California Department of Public Health, 2022), impacts from the pandemic to ever more frequent major weather events (from wildfires to flash floods) have fallen especially heavily on this population, which was already facing significant health-related challenges.
As we have done repeatedly in the past, the Healthcare Foundation has reached out to its community partners, frontline organizations serving farmworkers and their families, for their expert perspectives on this issue. We had four specific questions to begin with:
- How would you describe the general situation with respect to health and wellbeing for farmworker families in northern Sonoma County?
- What are the biggest challenges or obstacles to accessing healthcare for farmworkers?
- What, in your opinion, are the solutions and/or some practical steps in the direction of bettering access and improving opportunities for health and wellbeing for farmworkers and their families?
- Is there anything you think the wider community (including nonprofits) of northern Sonoma County should know that might help to move things in the right direction?
Truly eliminating health inequities in our region will mean working together to better support our farmworker families amid an increasingly erratic and insecure working environment and precarious living with all the health and mental health impacts that can entail.
I encourage you to read each of the highly informative responses we have so far received. This is a preliminary canvassing of viewpoints. We are in the learning stage, and want to hear from voices across our wider community, not least from farmworker families themselves. We would love to know your perspective as well. If you are inspired to do so, please share your thoughts, insights, experiences, expertise, and hopes with us. You can reach us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also want to let you know that the Sonoma County Latino leadership nonprofit Los Cien will be holding a “Spotlight on Farmworkers” forum at the Petaluma Community Center on July 18. You can find ticket information here.
As a diverse, caring and resourceful community, I know that northern Sonoma County can continue to develop a more equitable and healthier environment for all who live here. More than that, I know we can continue to lead the way in these troubled times toward models of equity and inclusivity that can better serve people across our state and country.
Thank you for all you do for the wellbeing of our region.
Healthcare Foundation Board of Directors
Farmworker Families and Health in Northern Sonoma County
Seven Local Perspectives Toward Improving Access to Services
“In the case of migrant farmworkers, exposure to traumatic events that may have occurred prior to migration, during migration, and post-migration can exacerbate health concerns. Unfortunately, pre-migration and migration experiences are often missed by health professionals due to inadequate understandings of migration, immigration, and racism-related stressors, which can lead to inadequate diagnosis, treatment, and care. With more culturally responsive providers, assessments, and treatment approaches, individuals, organizations, and broader systems of care may be in a better position to understand farmworkers and their families.”
—Dr. Daniela Domínguez, Assistant Professor at USF and CEO of On the Margins
“Farmworker families in northern Sonoma County experience staggering health disparities shaped and sustained by current social and economic inequities. In 2022, 69% of Botanical Bus clients strongly agreed that their everyday activities are limited by nervousness, hopelessness or sadness; and 60% strongly agreed that their everyday activities are limited by physical pain.”
—Jocelyn Boreta, Executive Director and Co-founder, The Botanical Bus
“In the last report released on the health and wellbeing of Sonoma County farmworkers, only 30% of Sonoma County farmworkers had health insurance, and this was the main barrier to them receiving medical care.”
—Sue Labbe, Chief Executive Officer, Alliance Medical Center
“I think they don’t have the support they should have received. My husband works in the fields and the truth is that we don’t receive help and everything is very expensive, medicines and visits to the doctors.”
—Dora Ortega, Community Health Worker at Corazón Healdsburg
“On a political level, healthcare access needs to be a fundamental human right. We need to remove the barriers and obstacles that prevent farmworkers from accessing healthcare—for example, ensuring PTO and sick time, untying health insurance from employment (which results in folks being underinsured with high deductibles and medicine costs), and ensuring language access alongside talent pipelines that make a medical career more accessible.”
—Jade Weymouth, Executive Director of La Familia Sana
“Farmworkers have misconceptions of public services and fear to utilize them. For example, they fear being charged for Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and other services.”
—Bertha Diaz, Community Health Worker / Promotora and Financial Services Specialist at Alexander Valley Healthcare
“Sonoma County farmworker families face a range of distinctive challenges that significantly impact their health and overall wellbeing…Through our interactions with program participants, we have come to understand that farmworker families are often engaged in physically demanding occupations that expose them to various environmental factors, including extreme temperatures, pesticides, and other occupational hazards.”
—Alma Bowen, Founder and Executive Director of Nuestra Comunidad
We are proud to sponsor Los Cien’s Behind the Lines: Spotlight on Farmworkers program. Click the graphic below to register.
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