Local Perspectives on Improving Health and Wellbeing for Farmworker Families in Northern Sonoma County: Bertha Diaz

1 min read. Bertha Diaz of Alexander Valley Healthcare offers her perspective on what needs to be done to improve farmworker health in northern Sonoma County.

Bertha Diaz is a Community Health Worker / Promotora and Financial Services Specialist at Alexander Valley Healthcare. Cloverdale’s Alexander Valley Healthcare (AVH) is a federally qualified health center (FQHC) and the sole primary care provider between Ukiah and Healdsburg. Since becoming an FQHC in 2013, AVH has expanded its services and staff to include general dentistry, behavioral health and substance abuse services, chronic care case management, and other patient services for the community. In addition to serving uninsured and low-income patients, AVH also cares for a large number of privately insured patients and Medicare beneficiaries. In total AVH providers annually receive and care for 5,000 patients covering more than 25,000 patient visits.

How would you describe the general situation with respect to health and wellbeing for farmworker families in northern Sonoma County? 

Farmworkers have more exposure to pesticides than non-agricultural workers, which can increase health issues. Social determinants of health such as poverty, unequal access to healthcare, lack of education, all impact farmworkers.

What are the biggest challenges or obstacles to accessing  healthcare for farmworkers? 

Farmworkers face a multitude of challenges when seeking to find affordable healthcare coverage. In addition to a shortage of healthcare services, farmworkers work over 60 hours a week, limiting clinic hours available to them. Because of their isolation, migrant farmworkers also lack sources of information regarding available services.

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?

By offering outreach. We have multilingual outreach workers that travel to areas where farmworkers work, live, and gather to make sure that they receive information about health, housing, dental information, and other resources.

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?  

Providing outreach to inform farmworkers of what services are available to them is key. Farmworkers have misconceptions of public services and fear to utilize them. For example, they fear being charged for Medi-Cal, CalFresh, and other services. [This can be mitigated] by providing outreach and building relationships with farmworkers and giving them resources and actual information.

The Healthcare Foundation’s mission is motivated by a vision of eliminating health inequities in northern Sonoma County. In recent months and years, Sonoma County farmworkers and their families have faced increased precarity and the repeated disruption of their lives as a result of forces beyond their control, from the pandemic to the impacts of climate change, with the attendant physical and mental health impacts and challenges this entails. The goal of health equity requires that we address the obstacles and challenges to their health and wellbeing. As part of the Healthcare Foundation’s effort to focus on farmworker health, we are turning to our community partners and other local stakeholders to better understand the need, the obstacles, and most importantly, the practical steps that can be taken to improve health and wellbeing for our region’s agricultural workers. We continue to collect information, engage in dialogue, and work cooperatively toward community-based solutions that can protect and enhance the wellbeing of farmworkers and their families.

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