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An Ethnographic Study of the Social Context of Migrant Health in the United States

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Title: An Ethnographic Study of the Social Context of Migrant Health in the United States
Authors: Holmes, Seth M.
Keywords: Triqui
United States
migrant labor
medical anthropology
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LC Subject Headings: Ethnology
Issue Date: Oct 2006
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Citation: Holmes, Seth M. 2006. An Ethnographic Study of the Social Context of Migrant Health in the United States. PLoS Medicine 3(10): 1776-1793.
Abstract: Migrant workers in the United States have extremely poor health. This paper aims to identify ways in which the social context of migrant farm workers affects their health and health care. This qualitative study employs participant observation and interviews on farms and in clinics throughout 15 months of migration with a group of indigenous Triqui Mexicans in the western US and Mexico. Study participants include more than 130 farm workers and 30 clinicians. Data are analyzed utilizing grounded theory, accompanied by theories of structural violence, symbolic violence, and the clinical gaze. The study reveals that farm working and housing conditions are organized according to ethnicity and citizenship. This hierarchy determines health disparities, with undocumented indigenous Mexicans having the worst health. Yet, each group is understood to deserve its place in the hierarchy, migrant farm workers often being blamed for their own sicknesses. Structural racism and anti-immigrant practices determine the poor working conditions, living conditions, and health of migrant workers. Subtle racism serves to reduce awareness of this social context for all involved, including clinicians. The paper concludes with strategies toward improving migrant health in four areas: health disparities research, clinical interactions with migrant laborers, medical education, and policy making.
Description: Refereed
Sponsor: UCSF Medical Scientist Training Program
University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States
UCSF Center for Reproductive Health Research and Policy
UCSF Graduate Division
Mustard Seed Foundation
ISSN: 1549-1676
Appears in Collections:Mana'o - Papers on Anthropology

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