Children of the Road: A Snapshot of Health
Hubbell, Elizabeth Antoinette
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Migrant farmworkers began to travel to the United States and specifically the cherry orchards of northwestern Michigan began in the first half of the 20th century, when war created labor shortages in the agricultural industry. Every summer since, migrant farmworkers have traveled long distances from places such as Florida, southern Texas, and México to earn a livelihood for themselves and their families. However, today the current immigration laws of this country make this occupation increasingly dangerous. Many of the workers and their families continue to live and work under conditions far below the standards of current laws, but a fear of deportation for themselves or a family member prevent a report to authorities of unsafe, potentially lethal, conditions. Immigration status also limits access to social aid programs that offer food support stamps, affordable housing, and quality health care. These programs do not consistently and effectively address difference in language and culture, which further complicates access. All of these obstacles have negative impacts on the health of the migrant farmworker community, starting early in childhood and during pregnancy. Anemia and obesity are but two of the negative health outcomes migrant farmworkers experience. In this paper, the possible causes of the latter are closely examined and compared; however further research in many disciplines is required to discern a root cause. This paper also reports and analyzes the frequency of anemia and obesity among the children of migrant farmworkers in northwestern Michigan during the summer of 2011. Recommendations are made to improve policies that shape the health of migrant farmworkers, as well as commendations for the practical application of future and existing programs that serve this community.