When I joined Center for Health Progress last fall, I started building out a community organizing department, which now includes two community organizers who are doing incredible, new work in Fort Morgan and Pueblo. Recently, our entire staff was given the opportunity to spend a day in Fort Morgan, where we were able to listen to and learn from community leaders and partners. This was a great opportunity for staff outside the community organizing department to experience this remarkable city and see firsthand the work that’s been happening.
A large part of our day centered on the Cargill meatpacking plant—unsurprising considering that it’s the largest employer and economic driver in the county. I had never been inside a facility like this before, so it was pretty astonishing for me to see the workers in action. I was in awe of the physical demands of the job and beyond impressed to see people who have managed to do the job successfully for years. We were able to talk with family members of plant workers and the local medical providers who take care of them. And, we were sure to ask about usage of services, barriers to accessing care, cultural competency, and other existing local resources. We met with local leaders of nonprofits, local business owners, a school leader, and a county commissioner to learn more about the dynamics of the community.
At first glance, it might seem surprising that we’re working in a small, agricultural town, but this community of a little over 11,000 people is majority people of color and Cargill relies heavily on foreign-born workers. Our focus on Fort Morgan is deepening our knowledge about immigrants, refugees, and health equity.
The dependence on immigrant labor is an essential component that factors into the vitality and sustainability of the community’s health and well-being. Equally important, if not more, is the health and well-being of our people and their families who are crucial to the community, but who are often underrepresented in the voices of those who are changing the health care landscape. So, as part of our community organizing work, we have been asking immigrants what they want and need most to be healthy. With the leadership of ten immigrant women, we have created a group of local promotoras, who recently named themselves the Morgan Health Connectors, to better connect the community to existing resources and to serve as a watchful eye on how the health care system and local resources can work together to create more equitable access to care for the community.
The places where we live, work, play, and worship are all connected to our health. Experiences of Islamophobia at a doctor’s office or a lack of transportation to a medical appointment have significant impacts on our health, and nowhere in Colorado is this clearer than in the global community of Fort Morgan. At Center for Health Progress, we know that we can build power with our communities and bring people together to uncover commonsense solutions to these complex challenges in order to make Colorado stronger. I hope you’ll look around your own community to see whose voices need to be heard, and work to include them in your work. And, take a trip to Fort Morgan when you have a chance—the Somali tea at Kiowa Community Cafe is fantastic!