The Cultural Context of Health and Illness: A Look at Hispanic Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers
Bowers, Jennifer Kim
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By learning to identify the cultural components that determine health beliefs, customs and practices a health care provider can take the first step toward cultural awareness. There are many subcultures of our society that do not receive adequate care on account of a lack of understanding of their particular needs. Migrant and seasonal farm workers are one of the groups most under-served by the health care system. Farmworkers live in rural areas where health care practitioners are scarce. However, the problems that migrant workers face go beyond this lack. Many are newly arrived immigrants from Mexico and, while some may have lived in the United States for years, many cultural differences still remain. In order to function in the limited facilities of the Western medical system that are available to them farmworkers must adjust to an unfamiliar language and new cultural norms. Although Mexican-Americans are one of the fastest growing populations in the United States today, proportionately there are very few Spanish speaking medical professionals. Migrant and seasonal farmworkers not only have to contend with this difficulty but also have added complications in obtaining health care. Since they do not have a permanent place of residence they lack continuity in care. Many farm workers are also newly arrived immigrants and without citizenship are ineligible for government aid. This is a problem since average income finds most migrant workers living below the poverty line. The first and most important step to overcoming these obstacles takes place when medical practitioners learn to be culturally aware.