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Children of U.S. Farmworkers Often Uninsured

Problem is worst among migrant, immigrant families, study finds

TUESDAY, Dec. 2, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Children of U.S. farmworkers are three times more likely than other children and almost twice as likely as other poor youngsters to have no health insurance coverage, a new study finds.

Farmworkers' children are exposed to pesticides and often do dangerous agricultural work themselves, according to background information in the study by researchers in Texas. They also noted that Mexican-American migrant children who travel across the U.S. with their parents are two to three times more likely to be in poor or fair health than non-migrant Mexican-American children.

"Health insurance improves children's access to and use of health care services, making children's health insurance an important proxy for children's health care access," wrote Dr. Roberto L. Rodriguez, of the University of Texas Medical Branch, Austin and Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas, and colleagues.

They analyzed data from a national survey of more than 3,100 farmworkers with children under age 18. The team found that 32 percent of the parents reported their children were uninsured, including 45 percent of migrant worker parents. Children were more likely to be uninsured if their parents were older, had less education, had spent less time in the U.S. and lived in the Southeast or Southwest, the study found.

"Our findings highlight the particular vulnerability of U.S. farmworkers' children regarding health insurance coverage," the study authors wrote. "These findings have important policy implications. They suggest that the low parental education among many farmworkers as well as more recent immigration, which may in part reflect acculturation, negatively affect their children's health insurance status."

"These social disadvantages may warrant increased efforts to enroll and retain eligible children in health insurance programs. Outreach efforts would need to consider other barriers that impede insurance enrollment and retention, such as the complexity of applications, language barriers, the inaccessibility of enrollment sites in rural areas and parents' fear of using services or misunderstanding of eligibility guidelines," Rodriguez and colleagues concluded.

The study was published in the December issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

More information

The U.S. National Center for Farmworker Health Inc. has more about farmworker health.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 1, 2008
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