By: Melanie Forti, Program Director
Ironically those who harvest our nation’s fruits and vegetables don’t have the resources to support a healthy balanced diet for them and their family members. Consequently, agricultural workers’ poor diets may lead to disease such as diabetes and other chronic diseases.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs in individuals whose bodies become unable to control the sugar levels in their blood appropriately. The American Diabetes Association states that Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to suffer from diabetes than the rest of the US population due to genetics, life style and poor diet. This is extremely worrying as the majority of the farmworker population is Hispanic. Unfortunately, diabetes is a growing problem worldwide. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has stated that in 2012, 21 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes in the United States. The number of individuals with diabetes will rise from 51 million to 72 million in developed countries, but the number will rise from 84 million to 228 million in developing countries.
The rising number of farmworkers suffering from diabetes is alarming. Their lifestyle, diet and lack of access to health care play an overwhelming role in developing the disease. Frequently monitoring blood levels is important to avoid any health complications. A patient that does not take proper care of their blood sugar levels may suffer from other health complications such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, kidney failure, and damage to eyes, foot and skin, and even death.
Farmworkers have little to no access to health care which makes matter even worst. Because of this, many may not know they are suffering from a chronic disease such as diabetes. Early prevention and detection is vital to stopping it from worsening. According to the 2005 National Agricultural Worker Survey, only 22% of farmworkers reported to be covered by private health insurance or Medicaid. With an average low annual income between $12,500 and $15,000 (for a family of 4), most workers cannot afford private health insurance, and most go without medical attention even when they need it.
Migrant health clinics play a very important role for farmworkers and their families. They provide primary and preventative health care to migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families. Their services are on a sliding fee scale to patients regardless of their immigration status. Currently, there are 165 migrant health centers nationwide.
Taking in consideration farmworkers beliefs and knowledge about diabetes may help improve education efforts, implement prevention strategies, and frame treatment plans. This will allow to better communicate the importance of following a treatment consistently throughout the patients’ lives. Partnering with other organizations and migrant health clinics may allow us to better reach, understand, and serve the farmworker population throughout the United States.