Improving agricultural worker health in hot environments

By Andy Goodell | Woodruff Health Sciences Center | March 21, 2019

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Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing's Roxana Chicas, PhD Candidate and clinical instructor, has received a $10,000 award for her dissertation research focused on targeted-heat interventions for agricultural workers. Funding for this pilot study comes from the North Carolina Occupational Health and Safety Educational and Research Center (NC OSHERC). The NC OHSERC (PI Leena Nylander-French, PhD, CIH) is funded by the CDC National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and aims to provide high quality education and training, research and service in occupational safety and health.

The pilot study will involve 80 workers who will be examined over the course of a work day to determine the feasibility of using a cooling bandana, a cooling vest or both in maintaining a body temperature of under 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit. The relationships between these targeted-heat interventions, core body temperature and environmental temperature will be examined through this pilot study.

This study is being conducted in partnership with the Farmworker Association of Florida and makes note of the occupational and cultural appropriateness of the targeted-heat interventions being implemented. This is done through exit interviews with participants. The pilot study will determine if the targeted-heat interventions enhance a worker's ability to maintain core body temperature under 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the hours that they work without interfering with their daily work routine.

The overall aim of this work is to generate knowledge that can advance the science around climate change, vulnerability and health outcomes associated with working in hot environments. The pilot study ultimately aims to improve the health of agricultural worker communities nationwide.