Promoting the Occupational Health of Indigenous Farmworkers
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In the United States, approximately 78% of agricultural farmworkers are immigrants. In Oregon, a growing number of these farmworkers are indigenous and speak an indigenous language as their primary language. This group of farmworkers suffers from linguistic, cultural and geographic isolation and faces a unique set of challenges yet little has been done to identify their health needs. Using data from focus groups, partners from this community-based participatory research project examined indigenous farmworkers’ concerns regarding occupational injury and illness, experiences of discrimination and disrespect, and language and cultural barriers. The data revealed examples of disrespect and discrimination based on the languages and cultures of indigenous farmworkers, and a lack of basic occupational health and safety information and equipment. For example, participants mentioned that occupational safety information was inaccessible because it was rarely provided in indigenous languages, and participants felt there were no legal means to protect farmworkers from occupational hazards. Community-based strategies designed to address the occupational health status of farmworkers must consider the unique circumstances of those farmworkers who do not speak Spanish or English.