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Occupational health within the bounds of primary care: Factors shaping the health of Latina/o immigrant workers in federally qualified health centers



Many workers seek care for work-related medical conditions in primary care settings. Additionally, occupational medicine training is not consistently addressed in primary care professional training. These patterns raise concerns about the health outcomes of low-wage Latina/o immigrant workers who make use of primary care settings to obtain care for work-related injuries and illnesses. The objective of this qualitative study was to investigate how primary care clinicians assessed and addressed the role of occupational exposures on the health and well-being of Latina/o immigrant workers.


We conducted semistructured in-depth interviews with 17 primary care clinicians (physicians, resident physicians, and nurse practitioners) employed in an urban federally qualified health center (FQHC) with two sites located in Orange County, CA.


Using a constructivist grounded theory approach, we determined that primary care clinicians had a general understanding that employment influenced the health and well-being of their Latina/o immigrant patients. Clinicians delivered care to Latina/o immigrant workers who feared reporting their injury to their employer and to Latina/o immigrants whose workers' compensation claim was terminated before making a full recovery. Clinicians were responsive to patients' work-related concerns and leveraged the resources available within the FQHC. Although some clinicians offered suggestions to improve occupational health in the FQHC, a few clinicians raised concerns about the feasibility of additional health screenings and clinic-based interventions, and pointed to the importance of interventions outside of the healthcare system.


This study underscores the complexities of addressing occupational health concerns in urban FQHCs.

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