Western Carolina University students and faculty in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program have produced a video-based learning series on musculoskeletal health and preventive injury practices for farmworkers, particularly those who are migrant or seasonal.
Farm work is hard work, with potential for aches, sprains and more serious injuries. The videos help prepare health outreach workers across the state and nation to better educate and manage common farmworker musculoskeletal health conditions, said John Carzoli, assistant professor and associate department head of WCU’s Department of Physical Therapy, who oversaw the project with assistant professor Nadia Marconi and recently retired associate professor Karen Lunnen. Frequent short rest breaks, proper lifting instruction are demonstrated in the videos to assist workers and their supervisors in avoiding injuries.
“This project provided students with unique learning opportunities in important areas that are difficult to develop in the classroom alone, such as interprofessional communication and collaboration, applied video-based teaching and learning, cultural competence, and translating research into health promotion and prevention practice to enhance the lives of farmworkers,” Carzolli said.
“Students in this project did an outstanding job collaborating with multiple stakeholders involved in farmworker health at the local, state and national levels in addition to working directly with the farmworkers,” Carzolli said.
Collaborating on the video series were local farm owners and farmworkers in Jackson County, the Vecinos Farmworker Health Program and the North Carolina Farmworker Health Program. The WCU Division of Information Technology did all videography and post-production editing.
Vecinos ― Spanish for “neighbors” ― is a Jackson County-based nonprofit that advocates and provides support to more than 650 farmworker patients in Western North Carolina. The North Carolina Farmworker Health Program is a Raleigh-based agency within the Office of Rural Health that helps provide funding, training and technical assistance for the health of migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their families.
The project was partially funded by a grant through the Central Appalachian Regional Education Research Center as part of financial support by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
“Community service has always been an important aspect of my life, and this project was an incredible way of connecting that with what I have been learning over the last year-and-a-half of PT school,” said Linnea Hardin, a second-year student in the program from Omaha, Nebraska. “In the future, I plan to incorporate my career as a physical therapist with community service, so being on a team to develop this learning series helped me experience one way that community outreach and the physical therapy career can intertwine.
“It has been eye-opening to see some of the barriers to receiving health care that many migrant and seasonal farmworkers face, which is especially unfortunate considering the challenging nature of their work” Hardin said. “Farmworkers are the people that put food on our plates, yet they are such an underserved population in this way. Creating a tool to educate the health outreach workers who work with the farmworkers has helped my teammates and me to influence farmworker health in a sustainable, continuous way.
“While initially it seemed more impactful to go straight to the farmworkers with our educational material, we thought that potentially more farmworkers would be reached and our education would spread further with the ‘train the trainer’ method, since they are more consistently working with the farmworkers,” she said. “It is exciting that we were able to put together an online educational learning series for farmworker musculoskeletal health that can be used throughout the state of North Carolina and beyond. Being on such a passionate, intelligent team of PT students and faculty for this project has been one of the best experiences of PT school for me so far.”
The project was a few years in the making from the time Carzoli was referred to his office by the Coulter Faculty Commons, said Eric Smith, IT video services coordinator. “It was an ambitious idea, but we had fantastic partners in the physical therapy students and faculty,” Smith said. “We’re dedicated to collaboration with academic programs, and we were especially excited to create this innovative video series. This project allowed our video services team to produce a new type of project with a greater academic impact than anything we’ve worked on before. We look forward to similar opportunities in the future.”