Advocacy & Activism, Cesar Chavez, Health & Safety, Wages

Farmworkers: A Distance Before Wage, Health Parity

From TheCalifornian.com, “Farmworkers: A distance before wage, health parity” by Leslie Griffy, lgriffy@thecalifornian.com, 1 Apr 2011.

Dr. Max Cuevas, the CEO of Clinica de Salud, speaks Thursday at the cinic's Sanborn Road office in Salinas during the press conference. Scott MacDonald

Dr. Max Cuevas, the CEO of Clinica de Salud, speaks Thursday at the cinic's Sanborn Road office in Salinas during the press conference. Scott MacDonald

For the lives and health of farm laborers to improve, communities must expand health services and design long-term strategies to upgrade working and housing conditions, according to a report released Thursday.

Even though Cesar Chavez’s fight to unionized farmworkers shone a national spotlight on working conditions more than 30 years ago, there is still much to be improved, said Max Cuevas, chief executive officer of Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas, a medical group that largely works with Monterey County’s underserved populations.

The report by Arnoldo Torres, a policy consultant working with the Central Coast Health Network, released on Chavez’s birthday, surveyed existing studies on farm work health, housing and economic situations.

It found:

  • In 1998, 80 percent of all farmworkers earned less than $10,000 a year;
  • 70 percent did not have health insurance in 2005
  • In 2000, 7 percent qualified for government programs for the low-income.

People without regular access to health care can often find that preventable or manageable problems, like diabetes, can balloon into a full-blown crisis — developing into conditions that are more expensive and more serious to treat.

Despite Chavez’s work, Monterey County Supervisor Simon Salinas said there is still much to do.

“The continued hard times confirm that farmworkers need and deserve our full attention to addressing these problems,” Salinas said.

To help improve the lives of farmworkers and increase their access to health care, the report suggests that state responsibilities given to the counties should come with goals for farmworker inclusion. Federally funded health care centers — like Clinica — should be expanded, and a task force focused on farmworker issues should be created and should share its findings with legislators.

“[Chavez’s] life’s work was improving the lives of farmworkers and we must come together, farmworkers, growers, government, philanthropic foundations and community-based organizations to develop and implement solutions,” Cuevas said.

Read at: TheCalifornian.com, “Farmworkers: A distance before wage, health parity” by Leslie Griffy, lgriffy@thecalifornian.com, 1 Apr 2011.

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