Coronavirus pandemic highlights critical gaps in rural Internet access for migrant and seasonal farmworkers: a call for partnership with medical libraries


  • Joseph G. L. Lee Associate Professor, Department of Health Education and Promotion, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
  • Catherine E. LePrevost Associate Professor, Department of Applied Ecology, North Carolina State University and North Carolina Agromedicine Institute, Raleigh, NC
  • Emery L. Harwell Research Assistant, Department of Applied Ecology, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC
  • Jamie E. Bloss Assistant Professor, Laupus Health Sciences Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
  • Leslie E. Cofie Assistant Professor, Department of Health Education and Promotion, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
  • Melinda F. Wiggins Executive Director, Student Action with Farmworkers, Durham, NC
  • Gina C. Firnhaber Assistant Professor, College of Nursing, East Carolina University, Greenville, NC



Internet Access, Farmworkers, Health Inequities, Health Literacy, Community Health Workers


Migrant and seasonal farmworkers, who are essential workers in the coronavirus global public health emergency, face unique risks to their health as well as longstanding health inequities. This commentary highlights these risks and argues that Internet access represents an underappreciated but critical part of the public health response. The authors first discuss the unique risk farmworkers face. We note the importance of Internet access in the time of physical distancing, the fact that many health outreach workers are no longer visiting camps, the need for telemedicine infrastructure, and the role of Internet access in providing connections to families in communities of origin. We describe existing efforts that have been implemented in North Carolina to raise awareness among public health and health promotion practitioners and researchers. The current coronavirus pandemic demands the attention of medical libraries, public health practitioners, and policy makers to address the digital divide for farmworkers and their families.


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