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A sure bet: Addressing the environment affecting seasonal equestrian workers and their families through community partnerships

Valerie L. Webb, MPH and Sean McDermott. Cook County Department of Public Health, 1010 Lake St., Suite 300, Oak Park, IL 60301, 708 492 2018, vwebb@cookcountygov.com

Despite decades of protests, unsafe and overcrowded living conditions persist for workers who care for the horses in the stable areas (Backstretch) of opulent racing venues. At Arlington Park in Arlington Heights, IL over 1200 workers and 350 children live on the Backstretch during the racing season. Because of a court decision, Illinois, unlike other states, allows workers’ children to live on the Backstretch. Families, sometimes up to five members, are crowded in a 10’ x 10’ concrete block room with cement floors and ceilings and one naked light bulb. The rooms are without cross-ventilation, cooking facilities, running water or individual bathrooms.

In the summer of 1994, an outbreak of Shigella sonnei occurred on the Backstretch with all but one of the confirmed cases living in the same housing unit and sharing a common bathroom facility. Two adults and fifteen children (under 5 years of age) were diagnosed with shigellosis with an additional thirteen children symptomatic. Following containment of the outbreak, a committee convened to assess, coordinate and advocate for services to workers and their families. The Arlington Backstretch Coordinating Committee (ABCC) represents a broad group of community health, child care, education services, regulatory agencies and on-track services. The ABCC’s agenda has evolved to include door to door outreach, cultural and linguistically appropriate health promotion, expanded education and recreational activities, advocacy for new family housing, child care provision and policy development. This effort identifies the need for a broad based community coalition to successfully impact environmental disparities when serving disenfranchised populations.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Community Collaboration,

Related Web page: None

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

Environment as Social Capital Affecting Health Status

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA