Hillman Scholar Sandra Garcia is Paving the Way for Safer Farming

Hillman Scholar Sandra Garcia receives funding to investigate pesticide protective behaviors among Latinx farmworkers

Sandra Garcia

Funded by a Hillman Small Grant Fellowship, a new study led by Sandra Garcia, PhD student and Hillman Scholar at the UNC School of Nursing, aims to explore pesticide protective behaviors among Latinx farmworkers and promote open dialogue between Latinx farmworkers and growers in North Carolina. The research will be conducted between January 1, 2023, and December 31, 2023, under the mentorship of Associate Professor Jada Brook.

Despite federal regulations, pesticide exposure continues to pose a significant risk to the health and safety of Latinx farmworkers. Health issues resulting from pesticide exposure can range from mild skin conditions to life-threatening symptoms, infertility, cancer, and increased susceptibility to neurodegenerative disorders.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Agricultural Worker Protection Standard (WPS) mandates that growers provide pesticide education and training to their farmworkers. However, not all growers comply, resulting in underutilization of pesticide protective behaviors by Latinx farmworkers. Language barriers, limited education, and insufficient access to health care services further exacerbate the problem.

To fill the knowledge gap, the study will use a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach to identify facilitators that promote pesticide protective behaviors among Latinx farmworkers and growers. The research team will conduct semi-structured interviews with both parties and use social cognitive theory (SCT) as a guiding framework to evaluate environmental factors as facilitators.

Furthermore, the study will assess the feasibility and acceptability of hosting empowerment forums to facilitate open dialogue between Latinx farmworkers and growers. These forums will be used to discuss the findings of the study and pave the way for the development of future interventions based on the needs of both groups.

“I am so grateful to have the Hillman foundation support my research to improve the occupational health of Latinx farmworkers,”

Sandra Garcia, UNC School of Nursing Hillman Scholar

By focusing on environmental factors that facilitate pesticide protective behaviors, this innovative study aims to promote the health and safety of Latinx farmworkers and serve as a catalyst for positive change in North Carolina farms.