Local Perspectives on Improving Health and Wellbeing for Farmworker Families in Northern Sonoma County: Jade Weymouth

2 min read. Jade Weymouth, Executive Director of La Familia Sana, talked to us recently about the situation farmworkers in northern Sonoma County face.

Jade Weymouth is the executive director of La Familia Sana. La Familia Sana, located in Cloverdale, is a grassroots organization that assists underserved people, partnering to co-create equitable and culturally cognizant solutions with community members to address long-term needs for healthcare, jobs, food, and education in the community. La Familia Sana is committed to sustainably improve the health and wellness of underserved communities through empowerment, education, direct support services and advocacy.

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

Our community is stressed! Over 60% of our clients shared that they feel stressed, nervous, anxious and/or lose sleep from the stress of work, the cost of rent and food, and fears of the climate change that impacts farmworkers’ livelihoods. These stressors impact the entire family system, from youth experiencing suicidal ideation to seniors feeling hopeless and isolated. 

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

Currently, 22% of our clients do not have health insurance and 44% do not have dental insurance. This means families don’t have access to continued and preventative care. Relying on emergency medical care is costly and free clinics are overwhelmed. On a most basic level, when folks don’t have PTO or sick time you literally have to choose between a paycheck or a doctor’s appointment. The obstacles are rooted in inequities that have made accessing healthcare a privilege versus a right.

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?

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. We love the work that Providence does by going directly to fields and at pop-up sites. We know that drop-in and walk-in care is one of the first steps in building trust and continuum of care within our community. BUT, most importantly, CHWs/Promotores’ work needs to be integrated within healthcare. Promotores need to be respected and paid as a source of culturally aware care coordination, community health experts with a deep knowledge of community needs. You want to know practical steps towards improving health and wellbeing in your community? Ask the promotores, they will know!

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?

As La Familia Sana’s trust within the community continues to grow, we are starting to hear more about the gaps around safe and culturally aware access to women’s health services. Same with senior services and behavioral health services. As a County, we need to start thinking about sustainability. So many organizations want to partner and provide programming and services but we need to start asking, for how long? We know that collaboration is the path forward for our work, and we need to ensure that we have a lens of harm reduction, and that means we need to start talking about partnerships and funding in terms of years versus months. And systems change versus short-term programming.

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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