The Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) helps protect the health, safety, and labor rights of farmworker communities. FWAF serves over 10,000 Haitian, Hispanic, and African American members, including immigrants who speak little English and often experience health problems and discrimination in their work. FWAF’s five offices run programs that advocate for healthy living and working conditions for its members.

Fast facts: During the COVID-19 pandemic, FWAF partnered with NIH’s Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL), a large, multi-state effort that supports communities hardest hit by COVID-19. CEAL is co-led by the NHLBI and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD). CEAL teams bring evidence-based research funded by these Institutes into communities by sharing resources, creating tools for community leaders, hosting events, and finding ways to engage residents one-on-one. The pandemic widely affected farmworker communities, so FWAF used research and resources backed by CEAL to spread trustworthy information about the prevention and treatment of COVID-19. 

Sweet inspiration. FWAF’s health education programs try to help farmworkers get more access to health care, and at a reasonable cost. “Most farmworkers do not have health insurance,” says Nezahualcoyotl (Neza) Xiuhtecutli, former general coordinator of FWAF. “They have low wages, and they lack access to quality food. This makes them predisposed to things like diabetes or heart disease.” As a result, FWAF focuses on helping farmworkers build knowledge and gain the confidence to make decisions that affect their quality of life. Partnering with FWAF was an easy decision for Emelina Asto-Flores, a former community health educator with CEAL. “My mom is undocumented,” says Emelina. She understands many of the fears of undocumented farmworkers, having felt them firsthand herself. “I wanted to give back to that community.”

A COVID-19 vaccination event in Orange County, Florida.Big impact. During the pandemic, FWAF included COVID-19 educational materials provided by CEAL at food drives and other community events. CEAL members participated by handing out fact sheets on COVID-19 prevention and vaccine benefits, all backed by NIH and NHLBI research and printed in both English and Spanish. FWAF also organized health fairs and free clinics, where they provided thousands of COVID-19 vaccines.

Bright future. FWAF will continue to use NHLBI’s research in its health outreach, which entails everything from teaching about the effects of pesticides to connecting people to health providers. “We are always looking to collaborate in any kind of health outreach, because health care is becoming harder to afford and access, especially in low-income communities or for people who don’t have health insurance,” says Neza.