Join Together in Celebration of National Health Center Week and Farmworker Health Day

– In recognition of Farmworker Health Day on August 14th during National Health Center Week 2014, we welcome guest contributor Bobbi Ryder, President and CEO of National Center for Farmworker Health, Inc.

Bobbi Ryder

Bobbi Ryder, President and CEO of National Center for Farmworker Health

As we join together in celebration of National Health Center Week and Farmworker Health Day, I would like to encourage you to be bold in your embrace of this population and continue to seek ways to integrate both migratory and seasonal agricultural workers and their families into our care and our communities with the respect and dignity that they deserve. One way to do that is to challenge ourselves to make sure that all agricultural workers who are eligible for the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are enrolled and participating, and to increase the total number of agricultural workers who are able to make their medical home with a Migrant or Community Health Center.

I am confident that you will agree that Migrant and Community Health Centers are, and must remain, the primary points of access to care for the migrant and seasonal farm workers who give so much and ask for so little in return. The enactment of the PHS 329 Migrant Health Act in 1962 was a landmark event that set the stage for what we know of today as the Community Health Center Program, which now includes rural and urban, insured and uninsured, as well as several special population groups. In the ensuing years, we have seen the development of a wealth of high quality health care services across our nation, providing access to individuals in communities who would not otherwise be able to obtain health care services. This legislative act was a key transformational moment in the evolution of health care policy nationwide.

Whether because of migration, multiple employers, day labor or income status, agricultural workers are at risk to be among the residual uninsurable in this nation who will remain outside of the mainstream solutions for improvement of health. To ensure that everyone eligible for coverage does become insured, there is a role for each of us, both individually and collectively, to assure equity for the patients we serve. We must be engaged in our communities, we must engage our patients in articulating their needs and we must assure that they continue to have access to care, even where the ACA does not provide a solution to their continued lack of insurance.

The number of agricultural workers and their family members served in Community and Migrant Health Centers has hovered just under 900,000 for several years, and yet we know that there are significantly more who go unserved. I would like to issue a challenge to you collectively to make a commitment to increase that number in your health center by just 10%. Let us strive collectively to reach and surpass the 1 million mark in the coming years. Do we have the collective enthusiasm to rise to that challenge?

Jim Kim, currently President of the World Bank and formerly a top executive of the World Health Organization and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School uses extreme goals to reform the World Bank. Let us take a lesson from his examples.

Examples of Kim’s goals include: assuring that 3 million HIV suffers in developing countries received antiretroviral treatment by 2005. He met that goal in 2007, his current goal as President of the World Bank is to end world poverty by 2030.

What better way for us to recognize the contributions that agricultural workers make to the economic infrastructure of our nation than to make sure that they are able to enjoy the benefits of this most recent change in health care policy?

I encourage you to help us lay the groundwork to assure that migratory and seasonal agricultural workers are able to receive and access the high-quality care provided by our nation’s Health Centers.

My best to you,

Bobbi Ryder, President and CEO, National Center for Farmworker Health

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