Health status and needs of migrant farm workers in the United States: a literature review

J Rural Health. 1992 Summer;8(3):227-34. doi: 10.1111/j.1748-0361.1992.tb00356.x.


Migrant farmworkers lead a hard life filled with strenuous work, stress, and anxiety about employment; live under substandard conditions; and rarely get the health care they require. Preventive care is a luxury they cannot afford. Year-round nutritious meals are rarely possible, due to long working hours, traveling, and living in housing without adequate cooking and refrigeration facilities. Children may attend up to six or more schools during the course of a school year. Crowded housing conditions support the invasion of parasites, infectious diseases, and viral infections. Dermatological conditions from working around a wide variety of plants, dirt, and in the sun are frequent. Exposure to pesticides, herbicides, and other chemical additives creates the likelihood of acute reactions, such as headaches and rashes, and also puts workers at risk of developing chronic diseases as the level of exposure rises because of accumulation and mix of various chemicals. Yet, we know little about the health status of this population. We are unable to estimate crude death rates, age-specific death rates, or prevalence rates of most common causes of death, such as heart disease,cancer and stroke. There is no information about occupational accident rates, infectious disease rates, or even postneonatal mortality. We do know that when migrants go to a clinic, they are often likely to have the chronic conditions of hypertension or diabetes. They present symptoms of acute conditions such as dental problems, dermatitis, otitis media among children, and acute upper respiratory infections. Women frequently need obstetrical care, reflected (ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Status Indicators*
  • Humans
  • Medical Indigency
  • Morbidity
  • Rural Health
  • Transients and Migrants*
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Workforce