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Day of the Farm Worker Delivers Free Health Screenings, Services to Santa Maria Families

Santa Barbara County Migrant Education Office behind Santa Maria Fairpark presentations aimed at assisting children

Day of the Farm Worker activities Sunday at Santa Maria Fairpark included students from Allan Hancock College Dental Assisting Program teaching children how to properly brush their teeth. Click to view larger
Day of the Farm Worker activities Sunday at Santa Maria Fairpark included students from Allan Hancock College Dental Assisting Program teaching children how to properly brush their teeth. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

From dental exams and flu shots to books and bags of produce, farm workers received assorted help during a special event at the Santa Maria Fairpark on Sunday.

Day of the Farm Worker was hosted by the Santa Barbara County Education Office Migrant Education Program.

“We all benefit from the wonderful gifts agricultural workers provide to our own families: meats, vegetables, fruits, dairy, seeds, nuts, grains, eggs and much more,” Bill Cirone, the county superintendent of schools, said in a written statement.

“It is fitting that we pay tribute to their hard work and accomplishments. Local businesses and organizations also benefit from the products and services consumed by agricultural workers and their families.”

Geared to families, the Day of the Farm Worker event provided attendees access to free medical, dental and vision exams; physical activity and healthy meal demonstrations; recreational activities for children; and free clothes and books.

Multiple agencies also offered information on education, nutrition, legal and community services available in the community.

“What we find is that, for a lot of these folks, this is their only contact going for medical care,” said Steve Mahr, Community Health Centers communications manager.

“We’re trying to be as comprehensive as we can in the screenings that we’re offering, but really hitting the pressure points for diabetes, hypertension, certainly dental ...

“It’s very much about giving something back to the farm workers who do so much for us.”

While the event was organized by the Migrant Education Program, several key medical providers, including the county Public Health DepartmentDignity Health and Community Health Centers of the Central Coast, were on hand to deliver services, with an eye on prevention.

In one corner, workers focused on dental health.

“We have a really high rate of dental disease in Santa Barbara County,” explained MaryEllen Rehse, oral health program manager with the county Education Office. “It’s actually some of the worst in the state of California.”

Adults and children received dental exams, with fluoride treatments provided to youngsters to help prevent cavities.

“Kids who get the fluoride varnish are twice as likely to never develop cavities their whole life,” Rehse said.

At one table, two Allan Hancock College Dental Assisting Program students used brightly colored stuffed animals with large healthy sets of teeth to demonstrate the art of using a toothbrush, flossing and other key oral care tips.

“It’s really amazing to see the kids’ faces when you show them,” student Marissa Chavez said, adding that she enjoyed the education aspect of teaching youngsters about brushing and flossing their teeth.

“It makes me feel better knowing they’re getting acquainted with healthy habits,” she said.

After seeing the various medical screening exams, attendees met with CHC staff members who stressed the importance of seeking follow-up care if a possible problem had been identified.

Past Day of the Farm Worker events saw up to 1,500 people, but the numbers had dropped in recent years, according to Mahr. Last year, some 650 health screenings were conducted.

“Visually, attendance is down this year so, once we’ve tallied all the forms, we’ll have a better sense of how many we served,”​ Mahr said, adding that around 300 flu shots were administered this year.

The Migrant Education Program is a national program that provides educational, health and social support services to eligible children and young adults from birth to age 21.

In 2014-2015, California had more than 103,000 migrant children enrolled in its 20 regions. Region 18 serves Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, home to more than 2,200 migrant children and young adults.

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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