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Training Health Care Providers Helps Protect Farmworkers from Pesticides

The Issue

One important way to improve pesticide safety for farmworkers is to provide health care workers with training and resources to help them in recognizing and treating pesticide-related illnesses and injuries.

Small, rural health clinics located in farming communities generally serve California’s farmworker population. These clinics often experience frequent staff turnover, so educators must use innovative methods to provide timely pesticide information and clinical training.

What Has ANR Done?

The Pesticide Safety Education Program (PSEP) is a component of ANR’s Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program. For nearly 10 years, this unit has developed materials and conducted workshops delivering information needed by health care providers to properly assess and treat cases of pesticide exposure.

The workshops are held in rural farming areas. By design, they are small to make them highly interactive and to allow participants to engage in diagnostic activities based on actual case studies involving pesticide exposure. The program follows a train-the-trainer model, with the PSEP staff providing materials that key clinic personnel can take back to use as they train new staff.

PSEP collaborates with the UC Davis Western Center for Agricultural Health and Safety, the UC Davis Center for Environmental Health Sciences, and the UC Berkeley Center for Occupational and Environmental Health. Workshop planners and faculty include medical staff from the California Department of Health Services, California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Cal-EPA Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, along with UC Davis pesticide researchers and educators.

The Payoff

Information delivery benefits agricultural workers and others

Besides learning about pesticides and how to diagnose and treat pesticide-related illnesses and injuries, health care providers in rural agricultural areas also are learning how and where to report suspected cases. This gives California farmworkers additional protection from possible hazards of pesticide exposure.

Clinic staff distribute pesticide safety information, helping their patients to learn ways to avoid pesticide exposure.

The workshops also are attracting community leaders, farmworker advocates, workers’ compensation insurance representatives and growers, who attend to get more information about health impacts of pesticides. Because of the popularity of and demonstrated need for these workshops, three years ago PSEP staff extended them to tribal health care providers and others who work with Native American farming communities along the California-Arizona border. In collaboration with Arizona state agencies, PSEP now conducts workshops in Yuma and Phoenix.


Supporting Unit: Pesticide Safety Education Program

Patrick J. O'Connor-Marer, Pesticide Safety Training Program Coordinator, UC Statewide IPM Program, c/o IPM Education and Publications, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616