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Laurier researchers aim to remove health care barriers for migrant workers
Oct 29/12| For Immediate Release
Janet McLaughlin, Assistant Professor
Kevin Crowley, Director, Communications, Public Affairs & Marketing
BRANTFORD – Close to 40,000 migrant workers come to Canadian farms every year, the majority in Ontario, and many are not getting the health care they need because of unique barriers, say Laurier researchers Jenna Hennebry and Janet McLaughlin, co-creators of the Migrant Worker Health Project.
The project aims to educate health care providers about the barriers faced by migrant workers, who primarily come from Mexico and the Caribbean on temporary contracts to work in one of the country’s most dangerous industries. Barriers to accessing health care and workers’ compensation include language, culture, lack of information, reluctance to take time off work, lack of transportation and insurance regulations.
"Many times health care providers are unaware of the unique vulnerabilities, challenges, and barriers facing these workers,” says McLaughlin, project co-creator and assistant professor of Health Studies at Laurier’s Brantford campus. “Our hope is that by educating them about these issues, and providing them with key resources, they will be able to provide more effective and accessible care to their migrant worker patients."
For the first time, health care providers are being given access to a number of resources, including patient handouts, bilingual dictionaries, FAQ guides, posters, and background information about migrant workers' health coverage and rights in Canada. The resources are available free of charge on the project’s newly launched website (www.migrantworkerhealth.ca).
In addition to the website, the project team provides workshops on migrant health issues. Some providers have already begun adapting their services for migrant workers. Following a project workshop, two community health centres in the Niagara Region started Sunday clinics for migrant workers in a rural church. The clinics offer volunteer interpreters and do not require OHIP cards.
Hennebry, project co-creator and director of Laurier’s International Migration Research Centre, says their hope is that other health care providers will take notice and begin offering similar services.
“We also hope that the project will raise awareness among policymakers of these challenges, and be a catalyst for change that will lead to long-term, multi-stakeholder solutions instead of the band-aid approach which has thus far characterized the support systems for migrant workers in Canada,” says Hennebry.
Ontario has seen the deaths of at least 14 migrant farm workers in 2012, and many more have become ill or injured.
Project partners include the Occupational Health Clinics for Ontario Workers and the Industrial Accident Victims Group of Ontario. The project was funded by a research grant provided by the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (Ontario).