Emory University Helps Farmworkers Step Towards Better Health

As part of the annual Emory Farmworker Project (EFP), Emory University PA students expanded efforts to improve migrant farmworker health in rural Georgia. Over 60 PA students, PAs, and other health profession providers and students assisted in providing nearly 1,750 pairs of socks to agricultural workers, a simple-yet-effective solution to foot infections.

Established by an Emory PA faculty member in 1996, the EFP has provided healthcare to over 27,000 farmworkers, a population severely lacking access to care. The organization continues to grow with an average of 200 volunteers each year. Additionally, EPF boasts interprofessional and cross-organizational aspects, with multiple health professions and universities joining Emory to expand its reach.

Farmworkers often spend long hours picking crops in wet fields, which contributes to a high prevalence of foot infections; and grantees sought to further address that need in this year’s clinics. To prepare for providing care, volunteers participated in an orientation that educated them about common health ailments for farmworkers such as tinea pedis (athlete’s foot).

Further, the training emphasized that having clean, dry socks can help prevent foot disease. Students also learned how to educate patients about proper foot care.

In addition, Emory PA students took part in National Farmworker Awareness Week (March 24-31), where they participated in panel discussions advocating for farmworker justice and increasing their knowledge about the targeted population.

The project hosts clinics for – two one-week periods in June and one long weekend in September – in Bainbridge, GA and Valdosta, GA. The project was a success with over 1,700 underserved patients receiving education and access to compassionate care. The experience continues to be impactful for all involved.

“The scene at a Farmworker clinic site appears often chaotic, but the only thing I truly remember is how grateful I was for this trust [from my patients], and how it kicked me into gear to provide the best care in order to cherish it,” said Sean Keenan, an Emory PA student. “I did my best at Farmworker, but my patients gave me their best, and I’ll always remember that.”

The project is an integral part of the Emory PA Program and the goal is to continue to provide hygiene kits containing clean socks to farmworkers. Emory is pleased to foster continued collaborations to support the program, including collaborating with the University of Utah, whose PA program also conducts a farmworker outreach program.

The expansion of the Emory Farmworker Project to include socks and foot care was supported in part by the nccPA Health Foundation’s Be the CHANGE grant.

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