Empowering Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers (MSAWs) through Community Health Worker Interventions and SMART Goal Setting

Published June 2023 | Back to all news and updates. 

  • Many MSAWs have limited English proficiency, which can make access to and understanding healthcare in the US difficult.
  • Community Health Workers play a valuable role in helping MSAWs manage their diabetes by providing culturally and linguistically appropriate health education.
  • CHWs can help MSAWs with SMART goal setting; which is a tool that is a widely recognized method for setting and achieving goals.

Barriers to Diabetes Management among MSAWs

Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Workers (MSAWs) in the United States are a diverse group of individuals who work in the agricultural industry and migrate to different areas to follow the growing season. According to the New Economy American Economy Research Fund, there is an estimated 2.3 million MSAWs in the United States. This number may fluctuate depending on the specific region and industry.

MSAWs are often low-income and have limited access to healthcare and other services. Many MSAWs are Hispanic, and a significant number are also foreign-born. Many MSAWs also have limited English proficiency, which can make access to and understanding healthcare in the US difficult. MSAWs in the United States may face other challenges including finding stable and affordable housing, access and eligibility for health insurance coverage, and limited access to transportation, all of which can further limit their ability to access healthcare and other services and therefore make managing a chronic condition like diabetes extremely difficult.

Setting SMART Goals for Diabetes Management

Diabetes is a significant health issue for Hispanic Americans in the United States, and it is important for individuals in this community to take steps to prevent or manage the disease. This may include making healthy lifestyle choices, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly, and seeking medical care and support as needed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hispanic Americans are at higher risk for developing diabetes than non-Hispanic white Americans. In 2018, an estimated 12.5% of Hispanic Americans aged 18 years or older had been diagnosed with diabetes, in comparison to 7.5% of non-Hispanic white Americans.

SMART goal setting is a widely recognized method for setting and achieving goals. The acronym stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Setting SMART goals can be especially helpful for MSAWs who often have limited time and resources to manage their diabetes. When defining and setting SMART goals for MSAWs and diabetes management, it is important to consider their specific needs and challenges. Some tips for setting SMART goals for MSAWs include making the goals attainable:

  • Specific: Clearly define what you want to achieve.
  • Measurable: Determine how you will track your progress.
  • Attainable: Ensure that the goal is realistic and achievable given your current circumstances.
  • Relevant: Make sure the goal is meaningful and relevant to your overall health and well-being.
  • Time-bound: Set a specific timeframe for achieving the goal.

By setting SMART goals and tracking their progress, MSAWs can work towards changing their health behaviors, improving their diabetes management, and reducing the risk of diabetes complications. It is important to involve a healthcare team, including a primary care provider and a diabetes educator, in the goal-setting process to ensure that goals are realistic and achievable. Here is an example of how setting up a medical home using SMART goals can support comprehensive, coordinated, and continuous care in diabetes management:

Irene, a local CHW has scheduled a home visit with Martha to talk about the importance of taking her diabetes medications. Martha would like to focus on taking them as prescribed with meals, and they both decide to set up a SMART goal: “Martha will take all her diabetes medications as prescribed with meals every day for the next week.” To make this goal possible, Irene has helped Martha set up reminders on her phone and will check in with her to track her progress. At the end of the week, Irene and Martha will get together to review progress and make any necessary adjustments to her plan.

Martha has set a measurable and attainable goal. She will have reminders set on her phone and check-ins with the CHW. In the end, they will review Martha’s progress and make any changes needed to stay on track of her goal.

How Can Community Health Workers (CHWs) Help MSAWs Manage Diabetes?

Community Health Workers (CHWs) are trained professionals who work to improve the health and well-being of the communities they serve. They are trusted members of the community with a unique understanding of the challenges and needs of the community and can connect individuals with the resources and support they need to improve their health. CHWs can play a valuable role in helping MSAWs manage their diabetes.

CHWs can provide culturally and linguistically appropriate health education to MSAWs on topics such as diabetes self-management, healthy lifestyle choices, and accessing healthcare services. They can help MSAWs access resources such as healthcare services, diabetes self-management supplies, and healthy food options through referrals and application assistance. CHWs can work with MSAWs to define and set SMART goals for diabetes management that are specific to their unique needs, help them track their progress, and provide ongoing support and encouragement to MSAWs as they work to manage their diabetes.

By connecting MSAWs with resources, assisting with goal setting, and providing support and education, CHWs can help MSAWs effectively manage their diabetes and improve their overall health and well-being.

Learn More About SMART Goals and Diabetes Management

These publications aim to provide general information on diabetes management and SMART goal-setting strategies to help improve health outcomes. Visit our website to download our free guides.

HRSA Disclaimer
This publication is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $678,959.00 with 0 percentage financed with nongovernmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visitwww.HRSA.gov

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