Exploration of work and health disparities among black women employed in poultry processing in the rural south

Environ Health Perspect. 2005 Dec;113(12):1833-40. doi: 10.1289/ehp.7912.


We describe an ongoing collaboration that developed as academic investigators responded to a specific request from community members to document health effects on black women of employment in poultry-processing plants in rural North Carolina. Primary outcomes of interest are upper extremity musculoskeletal disorders and function as well as quality of life. Because of concerns of community women and the history of poor labor relations, we decided to conduct this longitudinal study in a manner that did not require involvement of the employer. To provide more detailed insights into the effects of this type of employment, the epidemiologic analyses are supplemented by ethnographic interviews. The resulting approach requires community collaboration. Community-based staff, as paid members of the research team, manage the local project office, recruit and retain participants, conduct interviews, coordinate physical assessments, and participate in outreach. Other community members assisted in the design of the data collection tools and the recruitment of longitudinal study participants and took part in the ethnographic component of the study. This presentation provides an example of one model through which academic researchers and community members can work together productively under challenging circumstances. Notable accomplishments include the recruitment and retention of a cohort of low-income rural black women, often considered hard to reach in research studies. This community-based project includes a number of elements associated with community-based participatory research.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Black or African American
  • Community-Institutional Relations
  • Employment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Food-Processing Industry*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Musculoskeletal Diseases / etiology
  • North Carolina / epidemiology
  • Occupational Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Occupational Diseases / etiology
  • Poultry*
  • Quality of Life
  • Rural Health / statistics & numerical data*