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Rural Health Information Hub

Formerly the
Rural Assistance Center

Bridges to Health

  • Need: Barriers to accessing healthcare for migrant farmworkers in the rural areas of Vermont.
  • Intervention: A program that uses care coordination and health promoters to reduce the barriers to accessing healthcare, while also providing services and education.
  • Results: Some barriers to accessing healthcare have been reduced or removed for migrant farmworkers in certain counties in Vermont.
Promising (About evidence-level criteria)

Bi-State Primary Care Association of Vermont and New Hampshire logo Open Door Clinic logo Bridges to Health (Puentes a la Salud in Spanish) is a consortium facilitated by the Bi-State Primary Care Association of Vermont and New Hampshire and made up of Bi-State Primary Care Association, the University of Vermont (UVM) Extension, and the Open Door Clinic (ODC). These organizations provide a care coordination program built off of the community health workers (CHW) model. The program works to reduce barriers for accessing healthcare experienced by migrant farmworkers in Vermont, 95% of whom are uninsured farmworkers. Barriers to accessing healthcare by this population include cultural and linguistic isolation, lack of transportation, lack of knowledge of where to go for care, documentation status, and lack of health insurance.

Care coordinators, nurses, and CHW work together, connecting migrant farmworkers to healthcare services and education. Education is not only provided to migrant farmworkers and farmers, but cultural competency education is also provided to health providers so they can better understand and serve people from the Latino culture.

Vermont Migrant Education Program logo The staffing models of the project vary according to region. Throughout most of the state, the CHW model is used by UVM because it is difficult to hire bilingual, bicultural staff in Vermont. UVM Vermont Migrant Education Program staff were already doing farm outreach, had the trust of migrant farmworkers, and were able to communicate effectively with them. These staff were trained to assist migrant farmworkers by teaching them about local health services and assisting them if necessary in setting up appointments, even if Spanish is a farmworker’s only spoken language. Where ODC is located, there are enough farmworkers to have a bilingual outreach nurse. The nurse goes out to farms and provides care for farmers and migrant farmworkers, educating both groups on healthcare options and services. ODC also has bilingual front desk staff whom patients call when more extensive services are needed.

Collaboration with other organizations, health centers, and universities has been critical to the successful implementation of Bridges to Health because it builds on the capacity that is currently available. Through the Area Health Education Centers and UVM, additional services and materials have been developed.

The VT Farm Health Connection, a predecessor program to Bridges to Health, received a 2009-2012 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Rural Health Outreach grant. Bridges to Health has been furthering access to care for migrant farmworkers with funding from a 2012-2015 FORHP Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant to provide services in six counties of Vermont. In 2015, Bridges to Health received a FORHP Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant to expand from 6 counties to statewide over the next 3 years. They plan to continue working with Federally Qualified Health Centers and hospitals, coordinating transportation and promoting the use of language lines.

Services offered
  • Assist with scheduling medical appointments
  • Educate migrant farmworkers and their employers on health services available in the community
  • Offer translation services
  • Offer coordination of transportation services
  • Provide feedback to healthcare providers in order to improve cultural competency of providers and reduce barriers to healthcare access for migrant farmworkers
  • Develop and distribute local health access guides in both English and Spanish
  • Make referrals to other services and programs if necessary
  • Assist with building sustainability of language services at health centers
  • Increased capacity at UVM and ODC to provide outreach to 125 farms, including the development and distribution of bilingual healthcare access guides
  • Increased to 98% the percentage of referred patients who successfully accessed care, due in large part to the high-touch care coordination effort
  • Increased knowledge and capacity about barriers to accessing healthcare among healthcare providers, migrant farmworkers, and farmers
  • Successful collaboration with college students who volunteer in their professional areas, including Spanish language students for translation services and medical, nursing, and dietetics students for their healthcare knowledge and services

To see the impact in numbers of farms and farmworkers reached through the grant cycles, view Vermont Migrant Farmworkers: Partners Working in Collaboration to Ensure Access to Health Care in the Vermont Primary Care Sourcebook.

Bi-State Primary Care Association is also featured in RHIhub’s Care Coordination Toolkit Program Clearinghouse.

  • There is an ongoing challenge of training healthcare facilities, teaching them to respond appropriately on how to remove barriers to healthcare access for migrant farmworkers. The training needs to continually occur because of ongoing staff turnover.
  • With migrant farmworkers in the statewide service area comprising only about 1,200-1,500 people, it is difficult to convince a healthcare system to make changes for such a small population.
  • The sustainability component is very challenging for a care coordination program of this type because it serves only people who are uninsured and that means a lack of revenue and a reliance upon grants.
  • Other challenges include federal and state policies on immigration, fear within the target population, buy-in from farmers and health centers, staffing, and difficulties that come with the rural nature of the service area, in particular winter weather that makes travel even more difficult.
  • While Bridges to Health has definitely raised awareness about the barriers to accessing healthcare experienced by migrant farmworkers, translating that awareness into practice has been difficult.

In order to grow the program, look to partner with agencies who have staff with similar knowledge. This helps build capacity within the program and does not duplicate resources.

Because change does not happen overnight, people need to be met where they are so all can come to a place of understanding.

Documents, developed by the Bridges to Health consortium, are available for use by other organizations for increasing access to healthcare for migrant farmworkers. Please note these are for your information and should be adapted appropriately for your program:

Contact Information
Kate Simmons, Director of Operations
Bi-State Primary Care Association
802.229.0002 Ext. 217
Care coordination
Community health workers
Cultural competency
Farmers and farmworkers
Limited English proficient
States served
Date added
July 7, 2015
Date updated or reviewed
August 2, 2016

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.