Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

SWCOEH’s Anabel Rodriguez, PhD, investigates which data collection methods best reach migrant workers

SWCOEH’s Anabel Rodriguez, PhD, investigates which data collection methods best reach migrant workers 

HOUSTON (April 14, 2023) – Anabel Rodriguez, PhD, the Outreach Program Director for the Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH), has completed a small, randomized trial investigating which data collection efforts gain the best response among U.S. migrant workers.

The study found that migrant farmworkers in the U.S. were more likely to respond to data collection efforts through traditional telephone interviews and online surveys. The study was conducted by Dr. Rodriguez and Jack Tsai, PhD, Professor and Regional Dean of the UTHealth Houston School of Public Health in San Antonio. Victoria Solis, a recent MPH graduate from the school in San Antonio, helped with data collection for the study.

The study, published in January in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health, found that participants were less likely to utilize or respond to data collection through phone apps. Study participation via online survey was similar to participation rates in telephone interviews, with a 4 percent decline.

Rodriguez, a former SWCOEH Occupational Epidemiology Trainee, utilized her contacts within the migrant community to assemble a group of study participants willing to share their phone numbers. 

“Previously, I had worked closely with Migrant Education Programs (part of every TEA Education Service Centers in San Antonio, San Angelo, Rio Grande Valley, and Houston),” Rodriguez said. “Growing up, my siblings and I were served by our MEP in the Valley. They provided our parents with educational support for us (when we migrated to California), social services, and general support. For this study, we attended MEP Parent Advisory Council (PAC) meetings where we were able to recruit migrant farmworker families. We also worked closely with MEP recruitment staff to gain trust and access to interested families.”

If afforded the time and funding for a follow-up study, Rodriguez has a few preferences on which methods to use for data collection. 

“In-person interviews are always so special,” Rodriguez said. “You get to know your participants beyond an anonymous participant identification number. You get to understand their perspective and learn how to be a better researcher, listen, and always include their stories in your work. Another two methods I’d like to use are: surveying at their place of employment and collecting direct data measurements from health records.”

Rodriguez, a former migrant seasonal farmworker and daughter of Spanish-speaking Mexican immigrants, is passionate about research and outreach efforts focused on improving the health and safety of vulnerable working populations, mainly Spanish and Mayan (Indigenous) language-speaking, Hispanic agricultural working populations.

“Migrant farmworkers are an essential workforce often overlooked,” Rodriguez said. “Research studies like these are important because they highlight needs, systemic barriers, and identify gaps in the literature to be addressed. Most importantly, they humanize the story of this invisible workforce.”

The SWCOEH provides graduate-level training opportunities for occupational and environmental health professionals through our industrial hygiene, occupational and environmental medicine, occupational epidemiology, and Total Worker Health®.