The University of Illinois at Chicago receives $6 million from the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to establish a state-of-the-art agricultural safety and health center in the United States. The new center will be called the Great Lakes Farmworker Health and Wellbeing Center., They will be housed at the UIC School of Public Health.
In Illinois, between 35,000 and 55,000 farm workers enter and leave the farm each summer. They usually live in extreme poverty, including poor housing, limited transport, food insecurity, lack of health and preventive services, and long distances to social services.
“These workers are very disadvantaged despite being very important to the food supply chain. I think it was,” said Linda Forst, Ph. “Farm workers are a valuable resource for America, and we should want to protect that resource.”
Forst’s research focuses on the occupational health of low-wage workers and temporary, seasonal, and precarious workers. Farm workers who fall into this category, she said, are the most disadvantaged workforce in the United States.
Agriculture, one of the most dangerous occupational sectors in the country, has the highest mortality rate per 100,000 workers.
“They don’t get paid sick leave and don’t have access to health care,” said Forst, a professor of environmental and occupational health sciences at the UIC School of Public Health. “And they really don’t have a choice to work or not because the wages are so low.”
She said many farm workers are not formally employed, making it very difficult for public authorities to collect data on them. NIOSH has funded several of Forst’s projects on farm workers, and the center includes a joint effort between the UIC School of Public Health and the University of Illinois Urbana Her College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at Urbana-Champaign. including new collaborations with Agriculture.
The Center began a survey in Illinois, censusing all mobile, seasonal and H2-A farmworkers in the state, and tabulating basic headcounts and farm-related injuries in the workforce. Get The center team will then translate NIOSH’s Worker Wellbeing Questionnaire into Spanish and distribute it to farm workers in Illinois.
Center researchers fund a third research project that will conduct blood tests for biomarkers of stress and inflammation in farm workers to see how these relate to health and well-being We are working to ensure that Center researchers also network with NIOSH Agricultural Centers and other state researchers.
Forst’s collaborators include Elena Grossman, Tessa Bonney, Michael Siciliano, Tim Johnson, Dana Madigan, and Lee Friedman from UIC, and Josie Rudolphi, Salah Issa, Jessica Brinkworth, and Charee Thompson from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Additionally, the University of Illinois Extension, Illinois Community Health Partnership, Legal Aid Chicago, and several government and non-governmental organizations participate in the Center’s activities.