August 29, 2011
Doris Chimera, RN, MA, MHA
Immigrant Farm Workers as a Vulnerable Population
This essay will provide an overview of immigrant farm workers as an example of a vulnerable population in society. A sample population demographic and background information about the community provides characteristics and context about why this group constitutes a vulnerable population. A discussion about the challenges and disparities farm workers incur when accessing health care with an assessment of the impact on federal, state, and local health care delivery systems. Key stakeholders in public and private domains are noted outlining the imprint immigrant farm workers have on American businesses as employers and providers of health care. Last, a review on how health care systems can best serve this particular group of people.
Background and Demographics
Frohllch and Potvin (2008) describe vulnerable populations as something different from populations at risk. They propose vulnerable populations are subgroups of populations at risk. They share social characteristics that place them at higher levels of risk. In turn, a population at risk displays a homogenous high- level exposure to one risk factor. For example, environmental toxins would place a population at risk. Socioeconomic status, education levels and language barriers are examples of social characteristics that create a vulnerable population.
Oxnard California located in Ventura County is an agricultural and beach community approximately 60 miles north of Los Angeles. Primarily an agricultural county known for growing beets, the city’s name originates from the Oxnard brothers who made their fortune with this crop in the early 1900s. The last decade has brought tremendous development to the area as beach communities have gained popularity as places to live. With the ability to commute via train into Los Angeles it has attracted more professionally oriented residents in recent years.
According to the United States Census Bureau Oxnard’s population in 2000 was 170, 358 citizens. An estimate in 2006 reports 184,463 citizens indicating an 8.1% growth in population. The community divides equally among men and women with the largest age group consisting of those under 15 and a median age of 30. This indicates a growth population with a composition of mainly young families who are Hispanic. Middle and older age groups are primarily white. From the 2000 statistics 62.2% are Hispanic, 62.1% speak a language other than English, 59.9% of those 25 and over have a high school education, and the median household income is $48,603 (United States Census Bureau, 2000).The City of Oxnard website (n.d.) displays the Oxnard population profile 2000 chart that represents a profile for Oxnard, California based on their two prevalent race mixes (Appendix A).
According to McCauley (2005) “most immigrants come to the United States seeking better job opportunities and higher wages and they tend to be in younger age groups with high labor force participation” (pp. 313). A review of the literature reveals that immigrants hold the majority of farm worker jobs in Ventura County. Most are immigrants from Mexico and are in America illegally. Because of their undocumented status exact statistical information is virtually nonexistent. An annual survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Labor (1998) indicated that nationally more than 50% of farm workers admitted they lacked legal documentation.
Challenges, Disparities, and Impact on Health Care Delivery
Immigrants constitute a vulnerable population primarily because of their low socioeconomic status, language barriers and lower levels of education. Socioeconomic status prevents healthy lifestyle choices....