National Center for Farmworker Health

Buda organization serves agricultural workers

Dedicated to providing health care resources for migrant and community health centers, the Buda-based National Center for Farmworker Health has been in operation since 1975.

The private, nonprofit corporation provides information services, training and technical assistance to hundreds of migrant and community health centers throughout the United States. Those health centers collectively serve about 900,000 farmworkers every year, according to Bobbi Ryder, the organization's president and CEO.

Ryder said that providing health care for migrant and seasonal agricultural workers is something that cannot be overlooked.

"They are the people picking our crops. They are the people putting food on our tables," Ryder said. "So when we find a community without a migrant health center, we help them estimate a rational service area, estimate how many agricultural workers there are, and then we help them develop their community [and] develop their health care plan."

While the organization maintains more of a national focus, the NCFH took an integral role in the building of two community health centers in Hays County in recent years.

"We were one of the 200 poorest counties without a community or migrant health care center," said Ryder, who has been with NCFH since 1986. "So we got a bunch of people together and said, 'Don't you think we need a health center?'"

The NCFH began to see the need for a community health center in Hays County after receiving a grant from the Austin branch of Susan G. Komen for the Cure to implement a breast cancer education program, Cultivando la Salud, for low-income and uninsured Hispanic women.

The educational program, while very successful in other areas of the nation, was not initially successful in Hays County, according to Ryder. The difference was most other communities had a partner in a health care center, while Hays County did not have a focal community center for migrant workers to safely receive health screenings.

The program has gained more recognition and a higher success rate since the opening of the CommuniCare Health Centers in San Marcos in February 2009 and in Kyle in September 2010, Ryder said.

Seton Healthcare Family's mobile mammography service, The Big Pink Bus, has also played an integral role in NCFH's community outreach. Dawn Parsons, clinical manager for Seton cancer screening, said NCFH and Seton have worked together for years.

"They wanted to bring mammography directly into their program, and we helped them do that," Parsons said. "We were all involved in community outreach for low-income women, but we wanted to know how many of those women were being screened. With our bilingual staff, NCFH and The Big Pink Bus, we have made this the best community outreach program, so it has been a very rewarding win-win situation."

National Center for Farmworker Health, 1770 FM 967, Buda, 512-312-2700, www.ncfh.org