Confronting Inequity: Participatory Education Impacting Health At Work
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Occupational health educators partnering with Latina/o immigrant communities are challenged to cross the boundaries of traditional dominant culture assumptions about knowledge and action. Together they seek to understand the risks that workers face daily, their pressing needs to work for survival, and the limitations of bringing institutional enforcement to their workplaces. A critical ethnographic approach may start with understanding how knowledge and practices are held and used in immigrant communities and the role of social agency in responding to learning and workplace hazards. Peer educators leading popular education curricula, in community-based organizations, is a promising approach. The effect of popular education in its most authentic form requires that curricula are created, presented and evaluated as a joint effort between communities needing skills and capacities in occupational health, organizers of workers in the communities, and occupational health experts willing to develop post-colonial knowledge and practices outside disciplinary and institutional boundaries. Educators responding to unique, local, social and cultural histories of communities recognize a social ecology of learning. As a critique of colonial approaches, an intentional educational science of mediation should be practiced to both describe native cultural funds of knowledge and ways of examining these processes in partnership. The human social ecology of learning approach seeks to decolonize dissemination by turning the focus away from decontextualized
mechanisms; it promotes understanding the contemporary confluence of media, transnational hybridity, and the active role learners have across languages to use cultural capacities to design and re-design their lifeworlds. Occupational health educators should explore and document what these communities know and need to know in ways that peer educators and workers can trust and teach each other sustaining occupational health practices to strengthen worker community-based support.