For over two decades, Proteus, Inc. has implemented a successful and unique healthcare delivery model for agricultural workers in Iowa. Their decades of work with agricultural workers AND how they show up has allowed them to develop trust with their patients. Once workers become patients, they have access to primary care, behavioral healthcare, and other necessary medical services such as dentistry, optometry, and other specialty services. What makes Proteus unique is that they are a voucher program that not only provides transportation and interpretation at visits with partner providers, but they can also pay for all or part of that service through a voucher. Over the past year, Proteus has developed and implemented a successful COVID-19 testing and mitigation strategy. They were able to work with state partners and test close to 3,000 farmworkers in Iowa. Beyond testing, they provided follow-up care, and other lifesaving services. This strategy proved itself to be successful as they saw positivity rates decline and zero deaths in 2020.The CDC recognized this success and requested that they write this model into a best practice for them to share with others.
Meat processing workers were part of another population disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. Their limited access to healthcare created yet another barrier for an already vulnerable population. Proteus has stepped up to the plate and is launching a program that will provide healthcare to meat processing workers in Polk, Dallas, or Warren counties. An estimated 100 patients are planned to be served within the first year. Proteus currently has one facility onboard and the University of Iowa included as the research and evaluation partner. Since these workers lack access to certain services and do not have a medical home, Proteus will be providing access to primary healthcare to meat processing workers. They will be providing on-site temporary mobile clinics and then offering follow-up healthcare services at their clinics or through telehealth. If there are services outside of their scope of healthcare, they can make direct referrals to allow patients to have access to the services they need. The goal in years two and beyond will be to expand to other parts of the state in order to provide access to care to more meat processing workers.
“Meat processing workers play such a crucial role in the food chain, agricultural economy, and each of our individual lives by helping put food on our tables,” said Daniel Zinnel, CEO of Proteus, Inc. “I am proud of our team for the innovation in this healthcare delivery model. We hope this model will not only improve health outcomes for workers, but also provide return on investment for the employers who we will partner with on this project.” “This program, quite frankly, will improve the lives of meat processing workers and their families.”
Collaborating with Funders and Partner Organizations
Initial funding for this project is close to $150,000 from funders including the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines, Telligen Foundation, United Way of Central Iowa, Delta Dental Foundation, and Bank of America. “The Community Foundation was pleased to support the implementation of this innovative healthcare model to serve meat processing workers and their families. We believe this project will transform the quality of life for Central Iowans disproportionately affected by the pandemic as they seek to live happy and healthy lives in our communities.” – Angie Dethlefs-Trettin, Chief Community Impact Officer at the Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.
Partners on this project include the University of Iowa and Midwest Premier Foods. The University of Iowa will be providing resources and capacity to be the research and evaluation partner on this project. Midwest Premier Foods has two facilities in Polk County that Proteus will have access to workers on location to provide healthcare. Proteus is working to commit at least one other meat processing facility as well for this first year.
“Proteus provides uniquely effective health care for vulnerable seasonal and migrant farmworkers by addressing primary care needs within the framework of multiple social determinants of health,” said Claudia Corwin, MD, MPH, clinical assistant professor of internal medicine at the UI Carver College of Medicine. “I am confident this model can address many of the healthcare-related challenges faced by our essential meat packing workers as well. University of Iowa Health Care is committed to promoting healthcare equity and serving our most vulnerable workers. My colleagues at UI Health Care and I are honored to play a role in this new Proteus initiative and participate in a methodical evaluation of the program as it evolves. We are also excited to collect meaningful research data that could inform the program as it moves forward into the future.”
Proteus is a multi-state 501c3 non-profit organization that provides job training, healthcare and assistance to those who work in agriculture in Iowa, Nebraska and Indiana.