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Your Environment. Your Health.

Reducing Exposures to Pathogens from Industrial Food Animal Production

Partnerships for Environmental Public Health (PEPH)

NIOSH Grant: R21OH009829

Community-Academic Partners
Johns Hopkins University: Ellen K. Silbergeld, Ph.D.
Socially Responsible Agriculture Project:
North Carolina Office of the Environmental Defense Fund:
United Food and Commercial Workers Union:
Delmarva Poultry Justice Alliance

farmworker walking among chicks

In regions of intensive food animal production, workers in food animal production and their communities share risks of exposure to pathogens in the workplace and the associated health impacts from these exposures. The connection between community associated methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (CA-MRSA) infections and industrial food animal production has been generally overlooked. Workers in food animal industries, their families, and their communities need research-based information about the pathways of infection so they can develop prevention strategies. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University are collaborating with the University of North Carolina School of Public Health, the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project, the North Carolina Office of the Environmental Defense Fund, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, and the Delmarva Poultry Justice Alliance to identify geographic and social networks that link workers and communities and to define points of intervention to reduce the risks of CA-MRSA exposure among slaughterhouse and farm workers and community members. This is the first study to focus on the spread of MRSA infections from workers in food animal production to members of the surrounding community.

The partners will investigate:

  • The prevalence of CA-MRSA among workers and community residents.
  • Work place practices that increase risk of worker exposure to the pathogen.
  • Pathways of community exposure, including social networks and geospatial proximity.
  • Special risk populations.
  • Barriers to risk reduction.

The partners will design informational materials to communicate with farmers, farm workers, and community members. This information will serve as the foundation to support individual and community action to limit transmission of the pathogen from the work environment to the community. An evaluation will measure uptake of the outreach message, empowerment of stakeholders, and efficacy of policies, and will identify knowledge gaps for public health actions.

This partnership seeks to empower workers and their communities to act to reduce the spread of CA-MRSA among farmers, farm workers, and surrounding communities.

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