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UF/IFAS and UF School of Medicine team up during nutrition and workplace safety event to help farmworkers

UF/IFAS and UF School of Medicine team up during nutrition and workplace safety event to help farmworkers
UF/IFAS and UF School of Medicine team up during nutrition and workplace safety event to help farmworkers

Specialists of University of Florida – Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the UF School of Medicine, will screen farmworkers for the early detection of chronic disease during the fourth activity of its kind. The health fair will take place in Arcadia on March 23 from 8 am to 2 pm.

Assessments will take place in Turner Agri-Civic Center, 2250 NE Roan St. The clinic will occur at the same time and location as a training on job safety for agricultural employees conducted by the UF/IFAS Extension department.

Agricultural Safety and Health Training

Ajia Paolillo, UF/IFAS Extension agent and multi-county citrus specialist, will lead the annual workplace safety program. This program's main objective is to provide training to agricultural workers and pesticide handlers, educate on the safety required when handling pesticides and equipment, the use of personal protective equipment, and first aid.

“Our job safety training program is essential to the safety and health of farmworkers. This program complies with the federal requirements established for the handling of pesticides by agricultural workers and educates about safety regulations when working with pesticides and the reduction of exposure to them”, explained Paolillo. 

The training will be available in sessions in both English and Spanish, in order to eliminate the language barrier and help participants understand the information.

Other UF/IFAS Extension agents who will be part of the group of trainers during the security program are Jonael Bosques, Luis Rodríguez and Lourdes Pérez Cordero, as well as Kieth Hollingsworth who belongs to one of the external organizations that collaborate with UF/IFAS to this work.

Farmworker Health Clinic

During and after the safety training, John Díaz who is the president of CAFÉ Latino, the Florida Extension Educators Coalition for Latino Communities and part of the UF/IFAS Extension department, will lead a group of collaborators who will educate the farm workers on different aspects of health and nutrition.

“By incorporating the health clinic into the security program, we provide a value-added service to the event,” Díaz explained. According to United States Department of Labor y Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Agriculture represents one of the industries with the highest number of accidents in the United States, being one of the few activities where family members, who often share work and live on the same farms, are also at risk of accidents. and fatalities.   

Early Detection of Chronic Diseases

Dr. Norman Beatty, an assistant professor in the UF department of medicine, will lead a team that will screen participants for chronic diseases that often go unnoticed but can have a major impact on their health. Diseases to be evaluated include: high blood pressure, depression, diabetes mellitus, high cholesterol, anemia, and the Chagas disease.

Across the United States, more than 300 people are infected with Chagas disease, but less than 000% have been diagnosed, said Beatty, who is pioneering a program investigating the prevalence of Chagas disease in Florida, which is estimated to have infected more than 18 people in the state.

Thanks to these clinics, UF faculty and students fill a huge void in the health field. According to the organizers, of the 200 Estimated Seasonal Migrant Farmworkers for Florida, few of them and their families receive the medical care they require. This number does not include nonmigrant farmworkers and their families, who also work permanently in Florida.

According to the Florida Farm Workers Association (FWAF, for its acronym in English) whose members are low-income workers, Latinos and other ethnic minorities, 94% of its membership is made up of Latinos (predominantly Mexican and Central American), 3% Haitian and 3% African American. Approximately 60% are undocumented and 40% are women. A large percentage live in overcrowded rental housing and have no health insurance or job benefits.

“We hope to increase access to health care resources to help mitigate the health disparity that exists in these communities,” said Díaz, UF/IFAS associate professor of agricultural education and communication. “We will provide health screenings and medical care, including immunizations for adults and children, which will be administered by our partners at the Florida Department of Health.”

Big steps

Last year, CAFÉ Latino and the UF School of Medicine evaluated about 2000 farmworkers and their families. Twice they have taken their clinic and educational materials to Wimauma and once to Wauchula.

“The health of our farmworkers is something we are passionate about,” Beatty explained. “Working as a multidisciplinary team, we are creating an interconnected support group to serve our Florida farmworkers in need of these resources.”

Beatty explained that teamwork is the key to giving farmworkers better access to healthcare.

“Treatments and medical help are needed for those who live with these chronic diseases, but without knowing about these conditions, they will surely go unnoticed,” he clarified. “It is an honor to see our colleagues at CAFÉ Latino and the UF School of Medicine join forces to help farmworkers and their families live happy and healthy lives. We really appreciate all you do for our communities.”

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The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human, and natural resources, and to make that knowledge available to maintain and enhance the quality of human life. UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences has more than a dozen research centers, 67 counties with extension offices, as well as award-winning students and faculty. UF/IFAS provides science-based solutions to the state's natural resource and agricultural industries, as well as all Floridians.

ifas.ufl.edu  |  @UF IFAS

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