Genetic Knowledge and Communication Among Mexican Farmworkers and Non-farmworkers in North Carolina


It is important to understand genetics within the context of health. This paper assesses (a) genetic knowledge among Mexican-born farmworker and non-farmworker adults; (b) their interpersonal and device sources of genetic knowledge; and (c) the association between their genetic knowledge and the sources of this genetic knowledge.

Interviews were conducted with Mexican-born farmworkers (100) and non-farmworkers (100) in North Carolina. Participants answered 15 questions to assess genetic knowledge, and sources from which they had seen or heard about genes and genetics.

Results show limited knowledge of genetics, with farmworkers and non-farmworkers providing a similar level of correct responses (6.6 versus 7.3), but with farmworkers providing more incorrect responses (4.0 versus 2.7). Important sources of genetic information for farmworkers were promotoras (47%), compared to teachers (49%) for non-farmworkers.

This study demonstrates a need for increased dissemination of genetic information to Mexican-origin farmworkers and non-farmworkers.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    A brief guide to Genomics. National Human Genome [internet] 2019 [cited 2020 May 19]. Accessed 19 May 2020.

  2. 2.

    Condit CM. Public understandings of genetics and health. Clin Genet. 2010;77(1):1–9.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Calvo R. Health literacy and quality of care among Latino immigrants in the United States. Health Soc Work. 2016;41:e44–51.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Lea DH, Kaphingst KA, Bowen D, Lipkus I, Hadley DW. Communicating genetic and genomic information: health literacy and numeracy considerations. Public Health Genomics. 2011;14(4–5):279–89.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Garbers S, Chiasson MA. Peer Reviewed: Inadequate functional health literacy in Spanish as a barrier to cervical cancer screening among immigrant Latinas in New York City. Prev Chronic Dis. 2004;1(4):A07.

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Ammary-Risch NJ, Zambon A, Brown KM. Communicating health information effectively. In: Fertman CI, Allensworth DD, editors. Health promotion programs: from theory to practice. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2010. p. 203–31.

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Semega JL, Fontenot KR, Kollar MA. U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Reports, P60–259, Income and Poverty in the United States: 2016. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2017.

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8.

    Hispanic Heritage Month 2017. Profile America facts for features. United States Census Bureau. [Internet] 2017 [cited 19 May 2020]. Accessed 19 May 2020.

  9. 9.

    Barnett JC, Berchick ER. Current Population Reports, P60–260, Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2016. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office; 2017. [Internet] 2017 [cited 19 May 2020]. Accessed 19 May 2020.

  10. 10.

    Noe-Bustamante. Key facts about U.S. Hispanics and their diverse heritage 2019. Pew Research Center; [Internet] 2019 [cited 20 May 2020]. Accessed 19 May 2020.

  11. 11.

    Gonzalez-Barrera A, Lopez MH A demographic portrait of Mexican-origin hispanics in the United States, 2013. Washington, DC; Pew Research Center; 2017. [Internet] 2017 [cited 20 May 2020]. Accessed 19 May 2020.

  12. 12.

    Gany F, Novo P, Dobslaw R, Leng J. Urban occupational health in the Mexican and Latino/Latina immigrant population: a literature review. J Immigr Minor Health. 2014;16(5):846–55.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Quandt SA, Arcury TA. The status of Latinx occupational health. In: Martinez A, Rhodes SD, editors. New and emerging issues in Latinx health. New York: Springer; 2019. p. 197–216.

    Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Narine L, Shobe MA. Making sense of housing disparities research: a review of health and economic inequities. Soc Work Public Health. 2014;29:35–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Hoffmann A, Spengler D. DNA memories of early social life. Neuroscience. 2014;264:64–75.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16.

    Dhingra R, Nwanaji-Enwerem JC, Samet M, Ward-Caviness CK. DNA methylation age—environmental influences, health impacts, and its role in environmental epidemiology. Curr Environ Health Rep. 2018;5:317–27.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17.

    Arcury TA, Lu C, Chen H, Quandt SA. Pesticides present in migrant farmworker housing in North Carolina. Am J Ind Med. 2014;57:312–22.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18.

    Arcury TA, Grzywacz JG, Talton JW, Chen H, Vallejos QM, Galván L, Barr DB, Quandt SA. Repeated pesticide exposure among North Carolina migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Am J Ind Med. 2010;53:802–13.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  19. 19.

    Quandt SA, Arcury TA, Rao P, Snively BM, Camann DE, Doran AM, Yau AY, Hoppin JA, Jackson DS. Agricultural and residential pesticides in wipe samples from farmworker family residences in North Carolina and Virginia. Environ Health Perspect. 2004;112:382–7.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20.

    Quandt SA, Brooke C, Fagan K, Howe A, Thornburg TK, McCurdy SA. Farmworker housing in the United States and its impact on health. New Solut. 2015;25:263–86.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21.

    Furgurson KF, Quandt SA. Stress and distress: mental health among Latinx farmworkers in the eastern United States. In: Arcury TA, Quandt SA, editors. Latinx farmworkers in the eastern United States: health, safety and justice. 2nd ed. Cham: Springer; 2020. p. 83–105.

    Google Scholar 

  22. 22.

    Arcury TA, Grzywacz JG, Chen H, Mora DC, Quandt SA. Work organization and health among immigrant women: Latina manual workers in North Carolina. Am J Public Health. 2014;104:2445–52.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. 23.

    Tribble AG, Summers P, Chen H, Quandt SA, Arcury TA. Musculoskeletal pain, depression, and stress among Latino manual laborers in North Carolina. Arch Environ Occup Health. 2016;71:309–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24.

    Perla ME, Rue T, Cheadle A, Krieger J, Karr CJ. Population-based comparison of biomarker concentrations for chemicals of concern among Latino-American and non-Hispanic white children. J Immigr Minor Health. 2015;17:802–19.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25.

    Arcury TA, Quandt SA. Delivery of health services to migrant and seasonal farmworkers. Annu Rev Public Health. 2007;28:345–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26.

    Berchick ER, Hood E, Barnett JC. Health insurance coverage in the United States: 2017. Current population reports. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office; 2018.

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27.

    Hamilton JG, Shuk E, Arniella G, González CJ, Gold GS, Gany F, Robson ME, Hay JL. Genetic testing awareness and attitudes among Latinos: exploring shared perceptions and gender-based differences. Public Health Genomics. 2016;19:34–46.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28.

    Malen R, Knerr S, Delgado F, Fullerton SM, Thompson B. Rural Mexican-Americans’ perceptions of family health history, genetics, and disease risk: implications for disparities-focused research dissemination. J Community Genet. 2016;7:91–6.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29.

    Furgurson KF, Sandberg JC, Hsu FC, Mora DC, Quandt SA, Arcury TA. HPV knowledge and vaccine initiation among Mexican-born farmworkers in North Carolina. Health Promot Pract. 2019;20:445–54.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30.

    Furgurson KF, Sandberg JC, Hsu FC, Mora DC, Quandt SA, Arcury TA. Cancer knowledge among Mexican immigrant farmworkers in North Carolina. J Immigr Minor Health. 2019;21:515–21.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31.

    Arcury TA, Jensen A, Mann M, Sandberg JC, Wiggins MF, Talton JW, Hall MA, Quandt SA. Providing health information to Latino farmworkers: the case of the affordable care act. J Agromedicine. 2017;22:275–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32.

    Harris PA, Taylor R, Thielke R, Payn J, Gonzalez N, Conde JG. Research electronic data capture (REDCap)—a metadata-driven methodology and workflow process for providing translational research informatics support. J Biomed Inform. 2009;42:377–81.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33.

    Jallinoja P, Aro AR. Knowledge about genes and heredity among Finns. New Genet Soc. 1999;18:101–10.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. 34.

    Haga SB, Barry WT, Mills R, Ginsburg G, Svetkey L, Sullivan J, Willard HF. Public knowledge of and attitudes toward genetics and genetic testing. Genet Test Mol Biomarkers. 2013;17:327–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  35. 35.

    Elder JP, Ayala GX, Parra-Medina D, Talavera GA. Health communication in the Latino community: issues and approaches. Annu Rev Public Health. 2009;30:227–51.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36.

    Sandberg JC, Rodriguez G, Howard TD, Quandt SA, Arcury TA. “He beat you in the blood”: knowledge and beliefs about the transmission of traits among Latinos from Mexico and Central America. J Immigr Minor Health. 2017;9(1):170–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37.

    Livingston G, Minushkin S, D’Vera Cohn. Hispanics and the Health Care in the United States: Access, Information and Knowledge: a Joint Pew Hispanic Center and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Research Report. Pew Hispanic Center. [Internet] 2008 [cited 20 May 2020]. Accessed 19 May 2020.

  38. 38.

    Catz DS, Green NS, Tobin JN, Lloyd-Puryear MA, Kyler P, Umemoto A, Cernoch J, Brown R, Wolman F. Attitudes about genetics in underserved, culturally diverse populations. Community Genet. 2005;8:161–72.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. 39.

    Berkman ND, Sheridan SL, Donahue KE, Halpern DJ, Crotty K. Low health literacy and health outcomes: an updated systematic review. Ann Intern Med. 2011;155(2):97–107.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. 40.

    Ashida S, Kaphingst KA, Goodman M, Schafer EJ. Family health history communication networks of older adults: importance of social relationships and disease perceptions. Health Educ Behav. 2013;40:612–9.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41.

    Ingram M, Torres E, Redondo F, Bradford G, Wang C, O’toole ML. The impact of promotoras on social support and glycemic control among members of a farmworker community on the US-Mexico border. Diabetes Educ. 2007;33:172S–8S.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  42. 42.

    Clayman ML, Manganello JA, Viswanath K, Hesse BW, Arora NK. Providing health messages to Hispanics/Latinos: understanding the importance of language, trust in health information sources, and media use. J Health Commun. 2010;15:252–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. 43.

    Perrin A, Turner E. Smartphones help blacks, hispanics bridge some—but not all—digital gaps with white. [Internet] 2019 [cited 2020 May 19]. Accessed 19 May 2020.

  44. 44.

    Lustria MLA. Can interactivity make a difference? Effects of interactivity on the comprehension of and attitudes toward online health content. J Assoc Inf Sci Technol. 2007;58:766–76.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  45. 45.

    Summers P, Quandt SA, Talton JW, Galván L, Arcury TA. Hidden farmworker labor camps in North Carolina: an indicator of structural vulnerability. Am J Public Health. 2015;105:2570–5.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. 46.

    Penchaszadeh VB. Genetic counseling issues in Latinos. Genet Test. 2001;5:193–200.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


This research was supported by grant R01-ES008739 from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Dana C. Mora.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

Research Involving Human Participants/Informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Mora, D.C., Sandberg, J.C., Howard, T.D. et al. Genetic Knowledge and Communication Among Mexican Farmworkers and Non-farmworkers in North Carolina. J Immigrant Minority Health (2021).

Download citation


  • Genetics
  • Health literacy
  • Health communication
  • Farmworkers
  • Community-based participatory research