The Midwest Immigrant Health Project

Community and Faith-Based Approach to Improving Social Services in Immigrant-Dense Rural Communities

Field of Work: Improving health care and social services in immigrant communities in the rural Midwest

Problem Synopsis: Rural communities in the Midwest attract many new immigrants and refugees to work in the meatpacking and poultry-processing industries. These jobs are some of the most dangerous in the United States. Ever-increasing line speeds, repetitive cutting motions, and razor-sharp knives exacerbate working conditions, injuries, and long-term health impacts. Unfamiliarity with the U.S. health system, language barriers, transportation to local or distant health care facilities, and the pervasive lack of health insurance complicate access to and use of health care by workers and their families.

Synopsis of the Work: The Center for New Community’s Midwest Immigrant Health Project is a grassroots effort to address the health and related problems of immigrants working in meatpacking and poultry-processing plants in 12 rural communities in Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota.

Key Findings/Results: Community organizers and 36 faith congregations established Health Action Councils in 12 communities in Missouri, Iowa and Minnesota. The councils and community organizers identified key barriers to workplace safety and health care in each community, and brokered solutions to those barriers. Project staff worked with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to provide training in workplace safety in each of the 12 communities.

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