Public health impact of heat-related illness among migrant farmworkers

Am J Prev Med. 2013 Mar;44(3):199-206. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2012.10.020.


Background: Migrant farmworkers are at risk for heat-related illness (HRI) at work.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine which risk factors could potentially reduce the prevalence of HRI symptoms among migrant farmworkers in Georgia.

Methods: Trained interviewers conducted in-person interviews of adults who attended the South Georgia Farmworker Health Project clinics in June 2011. The analysis was conducted in 2011-2012. Population intervention models were used to assess where the greatest potential impact could be made to reduce the prevalence of HRI symptoms.

Results: In total, 405 farmworkers participated. One third of participants had experienced three or more HRI symptoms in the preceding week. Migrant farmworkers faced barriers to preventing HRI at work, including lack of prevention training (77%) and no access to regular breaks (34%); shade (27%); or medical attention (26%). The models showed that the prevalence of three or more HRI symptoms (n=361, 34.3%) potentially could be reduced by increasing breaks in the shade (-9.2%); increasing access to medical attention (-7.3%); reducing soda intake (-6.7%); or increasing access to regular breaks (-6.0%).

Conclusions: Migrant farmworkers experienced high levels of HRI symptoms and faced substantial barriers to preventing these symptoms. Although data are cross-sectional, results suggest that heat-related illness may be reduced through appropriate training of workers on HRI prevention, as well as regular breaks in shaded areas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Agricultural Workers' Diseases / ethnology
  • Agriculture / statistics & numerical data*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Georgia / epidemiology
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Heat Stress Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Heat Stress Disorders / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Transients and Migrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult