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Improving Migrant Workers' Health

HRSA Administrator Tom Engels welcomed the National Advisory Council on Migrant Health to HRSA on November 6. Established 44 years ago, the council is composed of Health Center board members from communities with high concentrations of seasonal farm workers. More than a third of patients served are kids.
HRSA Administrator Tom Engels welcomed the National Advisory Council on Migrant Health to HRSA on November 6. Established 44 years ago, the council is composed of Health Center board members from communities with high concentrations of seasonal farm workers. More than a third of patients served are kids.

 

Health centers that serve farmworkers and their families now see close to a million patients annually, and are helping HRSA expand care into rural areas — including treatment for opioid misuse disorder and HIV — HRSA Administrator Tom Engels said on November 6.

Engels commended the work of the National Advisory Council on Migrant Health, which was kicking off a two-day meeting at HRSA headquarters. The Council is a congressionally mandated body that advises the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on issues that affect migrant and seasonal farmworkers.

In 2018, HRSA funded 174 migrant health centers, although many other centers also serve farmworkers. Some 35 percent of the patients served at these centers were children.

Tom Engels and BPHC staff with members of the advisory board.

 

These centers are at the forefront of HRSA initiatives ranging from ending the HIV epidemic to reducing maternal mortality rates, Engels noted. "The United States has a horrible record right now," he said, adding that the maternal mortality rate in U.S. has risen in recent years, even as it declined around the globe. The United States has among the highest per capita rates of both maternal and infant death among some 180 countries.
These centers are at the forefront of HRSA initiatives ranging from ending the HIV epidemic to reducing maternal mortality rates, Engels noted. "The United States has a horrible record right now," he said, adding that the maternal mortality rate in the U.S. has risen in recent years, even as it declined around the globe. The United States has among the highest per capita rates of both maternal and infant death among some 180 countries.

 

"You would think over the last 30 years ... that our numbers would be dropping," the Administrator observed. "and it's just the opposite."

Engels said getting pregnant women into prenatal care "to be sure they're getting all the care that they need" is important in reversing that trend, and helps women to stay healthy to term. That, he added, is no less true for farmworkers and their families, or moms living anywhere else in rural America.

"We want to make sure rural areas have quality care," he said.

The Advisory Council includes representatives from the United States and Puerto Rico, and was established in 1975.

"I look forward to receiving your recommendations," Engels said.

Date Last Reviewed:  November 2019