The 45th anniversary of the Migrant Health Act, signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1962, was widely celebrated in 2007 by those concerned with the health of America’s migrant and seasonal farmworkers. But farmworkers weren’t the only beneficiaries of that groundbreaking legislation, for it marked the beginning of the American experiment in social medicine, which within the next few years came to include Medicare, Medicaid, and Community Health Centers.
Anne K. Nolon, President and CEO of Hudson River HealthCare, felt that the time had come to tell the story of the Migrant Health movement, and of the remarkable people who have made it happen. She was especially concerned that the experience and wisdom of Migrant Health’s long-time leaders be recorded, as they prepare to pass the torch to a new generation who will carry the movement into the future.
Thus was born the Honoring the Hands project. The project’s goals are:
- To honor the leaders of the Migrant Health movement, and to educate and inspire a new generation of leaders;
- To highlight advocacy efforts, policy decisions and legislative successes that have improved the health, and the access to health care, of farmworkers, and;
- To provide a forum for a better understanding of the political and economic conditions in which farmworkers, farmers, and health care providers must operate.
As currently envisioned, the project will include a three-part documentary film, and a website housing archival materials and photographs, video clips of interviews with project participants from the documentary films, and an interactive forum on Migrant Health trends, issues, policies, and legislation.
The documentary films, which have already been shown at a number of conferences to much acclaim, feature interviews with over 70 health center administrators and board members, physicians, growers, and farmworkers from each of the three “Migrant Streams.” The questions, put to the participants by Anne Nolon, were framed to reveal how they came to exemplify those to whom, in the words of farmworker advocate Robert F. Kennedy, the future belongs: “those who can blend passion, reason, and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals of American society.”