Project: Eye Safety for Citrus Farmers
Purpose: The purpose of this project is to provide protective eyewear and to educate local citrus farm workers to the importance of eye protection and safety while working in the citrus groves of southwestern Florida. Nova Southeastern University in Fort Myers, FL is located within a few miles of some of the most productive citrus groves in the United States. Injuries to the eyes of citrus fruit farmers is a common occupational injury that affects 1,700 to 3,000 agricultural workers per year across the country‡, especially in the local communities of southwest Florida. Educating these farmers on the importance of eye protection, and providing them with the means to do so, would have a profound effect on not only the workers who suffer from these injuries, but also the Physician Assistant students who are learning how to treat such injuries. This project will educate the local farm workers on how to avoid these easily preventable injuries, while at the same time, educate the students on the importance of patient education, communication, societal discrepancies in healthcare, and how to treat and work with an underserved migrant population that is rapidly growing in both Florida and the United States.
- One goal of this project is to prevent a very common occupational injury within the local citrus farming communities. Injuries to the eyes are some of the most common injuries affecting citrus farm workers. These injuries can be attributed to exposure to chemicals, pesticides, dust & dirt, plant matter, and the intense Florida sunlight. These eye injuries cost agriculture companies and workers and approximate $300 million annually in medical expenses and lost work time.‡ The injuries to the eyes of these, mostly migrant workers, can prove to be very serious and detrimental to their livelihood, however, these injuries are also very easily prevented. This outreach project will allow for a bond to be made between the migrant worker communities, and Nova Southeastern University, which may in turn encourage these workers to be more trusting in the medical system and to seek attention when needed.
- Another goal of this project is in the education and training of NSU’s Physician Assistant students. These students are receiving their education and will soon be practicing in a state in which 13.3% of the population is below the poverty line, 16.7% are foreign born and 23.1% speak a language other than English at home.‡ 21.5% of Florida’s population is from Hispanic or Latino origins‡, and it is mostly this population who works among the citrus groves of southwestern Florida. PA students in this region must learn unique strategies that will improve the care provided to this otherwise underserved populace. By participating in this project, these students will be exposed to local communities in need of medical care and attention. Students will learn how to interact with this community and tactics that will be useful to treat and educate a growing population not only in Florida, but across the United States of America.
Plan: NSU Physician Assistant students will organize themselves on planned community outreach days to work alongside representatives from the local citrus farming communities to facilitate the education of the farm workers on the importance of eye safety and use of eye protection while working in the citrus groves. We are seeking to purchase (or accept donations of) protective eyewear that will distributed to these farm workers, free of charge. This protective eyewear, when used properly according to the provided education, will greatly reduce the incidence of occupational eye injuries. This project will have a large impact on the local farming communities who may otherwise not afford or understand the importance of eye protection, while at the same time, could easily suffer an eye injury that could further detriment their only source of revenue and livelihood.
Safety glasses for this project were donated & provided by Protective Industrial Products, Inc. Click the logo below to check out their website.