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    • A young man named Paul Camarena at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.
      Paul Camarena

Paul Camarena: Helping Farmworkers Get the Message About Pesticides

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More importantly, I was witness to the potential of this model of collaboration between a state agency and local organizations to engage communities in the realization of their health potential.

MPH Candidate

My Internship with the Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) enabled me to work in support of a community-based project addressing some of the health concerns of a traditionally underserved Spanish-speaking farmworker population in the Northern California counties of Monterey and Santa Cruz. The valuable role these workers play in the agricultural vitality of the state and nation also places them at risk for a variety of health issues, including the potential negative effects of pesticide exposure. Such exposure is of particular concern for children as well as women of childbearing age or pregnant women, who comprise a substantial number of farmworkers in the area.

A large farm field, showing rows of growing crops.

Text4Salud (T4S), a collaboration between the CDPH and a coalition of Monterey and Santa Cruz county community organizations, tests the effectiveness of a low-cost text-messaging service in providing this historically difficult-to-reach community with critical information on pesticide safety at work, including where pesticides are being applied locally and how to report exposures easily and without fear of repercussion. T4S is guided by data showing immigrant workers are sophisticated users of technology, as well as pointing to high rates of mobile phone use among Spanish-speaking farmworkers. State agencies collect data on pesticide use and exposures and offer high-quality pesticide safety content that infrequently reaches the farmworkers most at risk; T4S will bring this data to the farmworkers’ mobile phones and offer them a way to report unsafe practices and exposures.

In monthly meetings with T4S partners, I was able to contribute to discussions of scope, messaging content, incentives, evaluation measures and fund development/grantsmanship. More importantly, I was witness to the potential of this model of collaboration between a state agency and local organizations to engage communities in the realization of their health potential.

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Occupational Health Branch of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH)