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Essential and in Crisis: A Review of the Public Health Threats Facing Farmworkers in the US

May 04, 2021
CLF Report

Sarah Goldman, Anna Aspenson, Prashasti Bhatnagar, and Robert Martin

This report examines health burdens borne by farmworkers from a public health perspective and outlines critical interventions, opportunities and challenges to advance reform. Researchers reviewed evidence from the scientific literature published between January 2016 and January 2020 on occupational hazards and social conditions that affect farmworker communities, and incorporate the voices of advocates, labor organizers, and other stakeholders throughout the report.

The first half of the report provides policy-related background information and considers the social contexts of unsafe working conditions that are often associated with nega­tive health impacts for farmworkers. The second half of the report summa­rizes the public health threats that farmworkers face. Each section describes how farmworkers are exposed to these health hazards and provides infor­mation about the short and long-term effects on farmworker health. The sections conclude with a description of individual and systemic interven­tions, opportunities and challenges to reducing these health impacts. Each section is structured so that it can serve as a stand-alone resource.

Important health risks affecting farmworkers include injuries resulting from long work hours and inadequate breaks, repetitive motion, dangerous machinery, and animals; exposures to pesticides, extreme heat, and animal waste; mental health threats; gender-based violence; and food insecurity. Factors such as discrimination, poor housing conditions, language barriers, age, social isolation, limited access to healthcare, and low wages also compound physical and mental health risks for farmworkers and their families.

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