Another mode of communication is the use of new technology, such as computer-based learning and access to information on the Internet. However, these channels pose a dilemma. Many people in our society look to the Internet for information and education, and it can contain an enormous amount of information helpful to workers. The Internet can be a great forum for sharing and exchanging information. Internet forums such as listserves, clearinghouses, and chat rooms can provide up-to-date training or informational materials for people who know how to use them. However, it contains so much information that it may be difficult to find appropriate and well-developed materials. Access to the Internet is increasing rapidly. However, there is a significant “digital divide”—only 31.6 percent of Hispanics use this tool (U.S. Department of Commerce, 2002). If the target audience is Hispanic workers with low literacy levels, the percentage shrinks even further. Even when the Internet is accessed it lacks the human contact and group interaction element that is essential for effective adult education. On balance it was felt that the Internet is a better tool for disseminating material to trainers who in turn will teach Hispanic workers, rather than as a primary tool for reaching Spanish-speaking workers directly.
One important mode of dissemination that came up frequently during the workshop is the Spanish-language mass media. There are Spanish newspapers throughout the United States, and many metropolitan areas may have several of these newspapers. Many rural areas with concentrations of Latino immigrants have weekly Spanish newspapers. There has also been an increase in Spanish-language magazines. While periodicals reach many people, there is still the obstacle of low literacy levels among workers. Fortunately the Spanish media are not limited to the written word, and the number of Spanish television and radio stations is rapidly increasing. In the past, information from television and the radio was limited to public service announcements. There are currently a variety of options available, such as providing subjects for talk shows, news shows, and integrating health and safety into regular television programming. Another advantage of mass media is that the media can reach multiple important audiences, including workers, small employers, and even families of workers, all of whom may have no other way to receive the information. Again, there is the issue of program effectiveness seldom being systematically evaluated. As recommended in a recent Institute of Medicine report, it is essential to begin funding and conducting appropriate evaluations of such large, costly, and potentially important interventions (NRC, 2002).
Because many Hispanic workers come from Mexico, it was suggested that collaboration with Mexican agencies could benefit both countries by teaching workers safety and health while they are in Mexico. Therefore the workers would be better prepared if they were to come to the United States. There are many other possible channels of dissemination, and they include:
unions representing large numbers of Spanish-speaking workers;
Spanish-speaking and other employers;
universities and colleges (United Association for Labor Education);
National Injured Workers Group;
suppliers (e.g., personal protective equipment, chemicals);
immigrant rights groups;
small business centers (Small Business Administration);
U.S. government agencies (OSHA, NIOSH);
other government agencies, such as Mexican consulates and the Mexican Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores Institute para Mexicanos en el Exterior, and Secretaria de Salud;
workers’ centers; and
adult education classes.