19th Annual East Coast Migrant Stream Forum: completando el circulo de salud: meeting the well-being of farmworkers and farmworker health leaders.
The Forum began with a series of intensive, half-day educational sessions: 1) Presenting COCHEcito, a Curriculum for Outreach-Centered Health Education to Farmworker Children; 2) What Migrant Health Providers Need to Know about Immigration Policy and Issues; 3) Building Prevention Education: the Claridad Experience; and 4) Maternal Occupational Pesticide Exposure During Pregnancy and Three Children Born with Severe Defects: North Carolina and Florida, 2004. Conference attendees also had the opportunity to tour a farm and health center. Serving the communities of Little River and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina's Little River Medical Center provides quality health care to underserved populations, including farmworkers and the homeless.
The tour began with a visit to Alliance Inn, a transitional housing venue for the homeless. Made up of 1-3 bedroom apartments, the Inn also houses the Health Access clinic to provide much-needed health care to residents. Next, the group toured Street Reach Ministries Shelter, which collaborates with the health center to provide patients with services from clinicians, outreach workers or a mental health social worker. The tour concluded with a trip to Nichols, South Carolina, to visit a family-run farm.
The first day of the Forum wound down with salsa lessons, where dancers of all experience levels enjoyed the opportunity to learn and practice their dance steps. The next morning, participants enjoyed a networking breakfast followed by the Opening Plenary. NCCHCA Executive Director Sonya Bruton gave a welcome speech, followed by local greetings and welcome from Lathran Woodard, Executive Director of the South Carolina Primary Care Association. An update from the Bureau of Primary Health Care (BPHC) was provided by Dr. Marcia Gomez, Senior Advisor on Migrant Health at the BPHC's Office of Minority and Special Populations. John Ruiz, Assistant Director of Systems Development and Policy at the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) provided a policy and program update. Rounding out the opening plenary was the keynote address, "Farmworkers' Struggle for Justice: the Legacy Continues: Si se puede!" given by Tirso Moreno, General Contractor, Farmworker Association of Florida.
Following the plenary, Forum attendees participated in workshops on topics such as integrating occupational and environmental health into the primary care setting, efforts to document farmworkers, using technology to increase access, and diabetes. Conferencegoers then enjoyed a lunch sponsored by the American Cancer Society before embarking on their afternoon educational sessions. The second day of the Forum concluded with a dinner sponsored by the Epilepsy Foundation and a dinner program by Sandy Grason, "The Legacy Called YOU." Grason is the author of Journalution and travels the country speaking to audiences about the use of journaling to heal lives and awaken dreams. Members of the audience had the opportunity to reflect on their lives and their future goals, continuing the Forum's tradition of providing an atmosphere of rejuvenation to help attendees return to their jobs feeling refreshed and ready to implement new ideas.
Breakfast on the last day of the Forum featured a program by Dr. Marion Moses of the Pesticide Education Center in San Francisco. Dr. Moses' speech, "Acute and Chronic Health Effects of Pesticides," was an eye-opening expose of the dangers of pesticides commonly found in homes across America. After breakfast, Forum attendees could choose to attend more workshops or an in-depth educational intensive, Developing Successful Migrant Health Delivery Models and Funding Proposals, presented by Pamela Byrnes, PhD, Health Systems Specialist, NACHC. Those who attended the intensive had the opportunity to sign up for one-on-one guidance sessions held later that afternoon.
The traditional workshops featured a number of topics related to current events, such as: immigration reform, pandemic flu and disaster preparedness. Each year NCCHCA strives to provide a wealth of knowledge to attendees, the migrant health professionals and advocates from federally funded Migrant/Community Health Centers and other community-based health, social, legal and faith-based organizations serving farmworkers. In addition to educational workshops and networking opportunities, the Forum featured an exhibit hall with resources from organizations with a vested interest in the health of migrant and seasonal farmworkers.
After the morning educational sessions, Forum attendees gathered together again for an awards lunch recognizing those individuals and organizations that work so tirelessly to promote the health and wellbeing of farmworkers and their families. Oscar Gomez, Executive Director of Farmworker Health Services, presented the Sister Cecilia B. Abhold Award to the North Carolina Farmworker Health Program. Sonya Bruton of NCCHCA presented the Steve Shore Award to Doug Smith, Chief Executive Officer of Greene County Health Care in Snow Hill, N.C. Last, the Maine Migrant Health Program received the Golden Lantern Award from Migrant Health Promotion.
After awards were presented, author Elva Trevino Hart read from her memoir, Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child. Barefoot Heart relates childhood memories and describes what it was like to attend a school in Texas where speaking Spanish was against the rules, life as a child growing up in farmworker camps, and the experience of seeing Mexico for the first time with her father, who'd spent decades living and working in the United States.
The conference ended with another round of workshops on topics such as obesity among farmworker children, women in farm work, East Coast Stream trends, and epilepsy. The North Carolina Community Health Center Association invites you to attend the 20th Annual East Coast Migrant Stream Forum in October 2007, location to be announced. For more information visit www.ncchca.org or contact Rosa Navarro, Special Populations Coordinator, at (919) 469-5701.
By Rosa Navarro, MA North Carolina Community Health Center Association Special Populations Coordinator