CONTACT: LYNN ROSE
2130 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 335-9585; fax(319) 335-8034
Release: June 28, 2000
Program aids migrant, seasonal farm workers with health, education needs
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- A unique program in Iowa targets unmet health, employment
and socioeconomic needs of migrant and seasonal farm workers.
Proteus Inc., a non -profit organization, has been in Iowa since 1979 and
has operated migrant health programs since 1990. Proteus currently serves
approximately 2,000 migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families each
year by responding to their employment, education and health care needs.
Proteus receives funding from federal, state and local sources as well as
private donors. Proteus receives some services and support from Iowa's Center
for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH), based at the University of Iowa.
The Agrisafe Network of clinics, which provides occupational health services
for Iowa's farm population, also assists Proteus to augment the services provided
to migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
Proteus services include: education and career training to help people move
into more stable employment situations; life skills and counseling services
to help families remain intact and keep children in school; and an extensive
array of health services.
The Proteus program has grown considerably since it was established. Jeanne
Duquette, clinical director of migrant health at Proteus, explained that there
are still many workers and families with health needs that go untreated.
"Continuity of care can prove challenging because migrant farm workers
are always moving. Migrant workers may be unable to afford health care or
fear being reported to authorities if they visit a health care provider and
give their names," Duquette said.
There are five Proteus clinic sites in the state: Sioux City, Fort Dodge,
Hampton, Muscatine and Des Moines. These clinic sites are located in areas
of high migrant and seasonal farmworker concentration. However, Duquette explained,
the best way to reach these workers is to go out to the areas where they work.
Staff members from each of the clinics are able to travel to and provide many
services at the work sites of migrant farm workers.
"Clinic staff often travel to work sites for migrant workers and provide
information about health and social services available to the workers, distribute
government commodity foods and perform screenings for health and service needs,"
Duquette reports that migrant and seasonal workers usually respond positively
to these mobile clinic appearances at work sites, and many workers use services
provided by the Proteus program.
To effectively deliver services at work sites, Proteus maintains and provides
mobile clinic services, a toll-free phone number, an extensive group of referral
services, relationships with growers and producers who let Proteus staff know
when migrant workers will be in the area, bilingual staff members, and staff
trained in occupational health, migrant worker health and social service issues.
The most common health problems among migrant and seasonal workers include
tuberculosis, serious nutrition deficits (especially in women and children),
parasitic infections, and lack of dental care and hygiene practices. Environmental
stressors work together to put migrant worker populations at increased risk
for serious health problems. Poor housing, limited sanitation facilities,
inadequate diet and substandard health care also contribute to poor migrant
Occupational health issues also present problems for migrant workers. Agriculture
is considered one of the most hazardous occupations in the country. Work performed
by migrant workers often causes them to be exposed to pesticides and hazardous
chemicals, extreme heat and dehydration, and on-the-job injuries that are
frequently left untreated or undertreated.
Proteus employees are trained with a range of skills in order to help migrant
workers receive improved health care and other critical services. Each clinic
has at least one registered nurse and one bilingual English/Spanish speaking
health aide. Proteus employees are specifically trained in employment counseling,
relocation assistance for families who want to set up a permanent residence
in Iowa, assessment of basic health care needs, and referral to a comprehensive
set of health and social services to meet migrant needs. Successfully providing
services for migrant workers also requires careful attention to cultural differences
and social structure within migrant families.
For more information about the Proteus program, call (800) 372-6031 or (515)
Iowa's Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH) is a consortium
including the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, the Iowa Department
of Public Health, and the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.
The consortium represents and helps maintain a statewide network of public
and private agricultural health and safety organizations. Located on the UI
Oakdale Research Campus, I-CASH's key objective is to reduce illness and injuries
among Iowa's agricultural population.