You might say that Rosa Navarro was born to do one of the tasks she handles for the N.C. Community Health Center Association – overseeing the coordination of the East Coast Migrant Stream Forum. That event is dedicated to improving the health of migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families – a population Navarro knows pretty well. She is the child of Mexican immigrants and grew up in a small town in Texas.
“They came from very little and struggled for a better life,” Navarro says about her parents. “My father worked in agriculture and migrated across the country. I think that’s where I get the need to do more, to be a hard worker and to create opportunity for others.”
Navarro, who is director of training and technical assistance for the N.C. Community Health Center Association (NCCHCA), is an example of how community health center staff often have first-hand knowledge of the populations that the centers serve.
She began working for NCCHCA nine years ago as the regional migrant health coordinator. Before that, she worked for Community Partners HealthNet and was based for three years at Greene County Health Care, a migrant health center located in Eastern North Carolina.
In her current role, Navarro’s primary responsibility consists of helping community health centers across the state assess and evaluate their needs for training and performance evaluation. In addition to the East Coast Migrant Stream Forum (which is being held in October in Memphis, Tenn.), Navarro coordinates another annual event, the state Primary Care Conference.
“Comprehensive and affordable health care, for me, is very important,” Navarro said. “We have to ensure that we have healthy individuals because, if we have healthy individuals, we have healthy families, and if we have healthy families, we have healthy communities.”
And Navarro knows how important the state’s migrant health centers are to the overall mission of community health centers. The centers are a “huge” part of the centers’ legacy, she said.
“Agriculture is a very important part of the economy,” she said. “Migrant workers are one of the most vulnerable populations. If we don’t have that population healthy, it could mean the demise of our economy. We need a healthy workforce and migrant workers play a special role in the workforce.”
Outreach workers in migrant health centers, as well as other staff at migrant health programs within community health centers, understand the special needs of migrant workers, Navarro said. She noted that migrant workers have special circumstances such as their constant migration, language barriers and abiding fear of deportation. Navarro speaks the language – literally and figuratively; she speaks fluent Spanish.
“It’s really exciting to be someone who comes from those roots and can help create cultural awareness,” she said.