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Health Care and the Hispanic Workforce

Posted: September 6, 2005

Helping your hispanic workforce understand our healthcare system and emergency protocol.

In rural Latin America people don’t visit the doctor unless they are very sick or injured. Their reluctance to seek health care is often because doctors are unavailable nearby, transportation is difficult, and rural clinics are mistrusted. This cultural pattern means that your Hispanic workers might not seek medical care when they need it, even in the United States. Already, there are many stories in rural communities of Hispanic farm employees who did not seek treatment until they were dangerously ill or who tried to hide injuries from their employer because they thought they would be in trouble or did not want to disappoint their employer. You, as an employer, have a responsibility to make sure that your Hispanic employees are able and unafraid to access health care when they need it.

First, make sure that your employees know that you are concerned about their health and well being. Tell them you understand that accidents and illnesses will occur even in a safe workplace and that your first priority is for them to get better. This will help them to be less reluctant to seek medical care when they need it.

Next, help your employees find the medical help they need. Language and cultural barriers can make it very difficult for your Hispanic employees to find the help they need on their own. For non-emergency health care you can help employees find doctors, hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies that can meet their needs. Because many rural communities don’t have Spanish-speaking health care workers, you might need to help your employees to schedule appointments and get translation during the visit and at the pharmacy.

Finally, prepare your employees for emergency situations with a plan they can follow even when you are not available. This way they can get help without having to find you first. It’s easy to imagine how tragic situations could be avoided if employees know to dial 911 for emergency help.

Richard Stup, Senior Extension Associate, Human Resource Specialist
Penn State Dairy Alliance Dairy Alliance is a Penn State Cooperative Extension Initiative and Miguel Saviroff, Penn State Cooperative Extension Educator, Somerset County, Agricultural Financial Management/General Ag