Migrant and seasonal farmworkers constitute a major portion of the labor force in the American agricultural industry. By harvesting and processing farm crops, they contribute positively to farm communities and the American economy.
In 1988, the Office of Migrant Health estimated that nationwide migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their dependents numbered between 3 and 5 million.1 The majority of farmworkers are married and/or have children. Only 10% to 25% of farmworkers are estimated to be unauthorized workers. The average annual income for migrant and seasonal farmworkers is well below the poverty level despite the prevalence of families with two wage earners. Although most farmworker families qualify for some type of public assistance, only 18% actually receive it.2 Because health care insurance is invariably beyond the reach of farmworker family budgets, and employers of farmworkers rarely provide health care benefits for their employees, these families are usually uninsured. In some cases, these families lack US citizenship or are in this country illegally, further limiting access to health care for their children. Medicaid eligibility is complicated by migration, because different eligibility requirements must be met in each state.
Because of their income level, lack of insurance, and mobile lifestyle, families of farmworkers often find that comprehensive child health care (health maintenance, anticipatory guidance, and preventive medicine) is essentially unavailable. Additionally, recent changes in immigration policy and economic developments have resulted in a rapid growth of population that is not parallelled by the growth of health care facilities. Other problems that delay or prevent access to health care for the children of farmworker families include language barriers and differences in culture.
- Copyright © 1995 by the American Academy of Pediatrics