Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Exploration of Work and Health Disparities among Black Women Employed in Poultry Processing in the Rural South

Academic journal article Environmental Health Perspectives

Exploration of Work and Health Disparities among Black Women Employed in Poultry Processing in the Rural South

Article excerpt

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 epidemiulogic 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. Key words: African American women, black women, communitybased participatory research, health disparities, musculoskeletal disorder. Environ Health Perspect 113:1833-1840 (2005). doi:10.1289/ehp.7912 available via http://dx.doi.org/[Online 18 July 2005]

**********

Classic epidemiologic studies and historical research document that in the past, blacks in particular were openly selected for unpleasant, "dirty" jobs regarded as unsuitable for other workers (Baron 1983; Cherniak 1986; Lloyd 1971; Taylor and Murray 2000). Historically, employers have also sought to reduce labor costs by hiring workers from less-advantaged groups--notably racial minorities, immigrants, women, and children--who are perceived to be willing to accept lower pay and poorer working conditions and to be less likely to organize (Green 1983; Levine 1989).

The U.S. labor force continues to be segregated by race and gender (Darrity 2003; Thompson et al. 2005; Tomaskovic-Devey 1993). Blacks are employed in hazardous occupations more frequently than whites, and black men experience higher occupational fatality rates than white men employed in the same jobs (Loomis and Richardson 1998). Compared with other women, African American women have higher rates of nonfatal occupational injuries treated in emergency departments in the United States (Chen and Hendricks 2001), with differences in employment by racial group suggesting explanations for this pattern. Recent evidence indicates that working conditions may be particularly dangerous for nonwhite workers in the Southern United States (Richardson et al. 2004).

Inequities in rights to medical care and wage replacement under workers' compensation are also present. Claim rejection for carpal tunnel syndrome has been reported to be strongly related to ethnicity and socioeconomic status, with claims by nonwhites, low-wage earners, and union members more likely to be challenged. Although more than 96% of the adjudicated cases in this report were eventually approved, the mean time involved in the process was over 1 year (Herbert et al. 1999). In Canada a recent report indicates that women are less likely to have contested claims for musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) accepted by an appeals tribunal than their male counterparts (Lippel 2003). The mislabeling and early mismanagement of these disorders may affect their clinical course (Andersson et al. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.