Saturday, May 10, 2008

Illegal migrant farm workers depend on spiritual healers, home remedies and self-medication

Migrant farm workers in California's Central Valley "need help because they are in the United States illegally and because they are poor," reports Kevin Sack of The New York Times. "Few have health insurance, but the backbreaking nature of their work, along with the toxicity of American poverty, insure that many are ailing." (Times copy desk: That should be 'ensure.' This is a story about lack of insurance, remember?)

Sack writes that the workers "may visit a clinic or hospital if they are severely ill. But for many illegal immigrants, particularly indigenous Mexican groups like the Mixtecs, much of their health care is provided by a parallel system of spiritual healers, home remedies and self-medication. Stories abound here of people who died — of cancer, diabetes, even gangrene — because they did not make it to an emergency room until it was too late. Public health officials also worry that the lack of access to conventional care may contribute to the spread of communicable diseases. They warn that the rampant use of antibiotics, often without medical direction, may speed the development of resistant bacterial strains." (Read more)

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