Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Occupational and Environmental Health
First Committee Member
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Fourth Committee Member
Fifth Committee Member
Agriculture is a hazardous industry worldwide, and certain groups of agricultural workers are at increased risk of experiencing adverse health outcomes. Agricultural workforces are becoming increasingly transitional, as established and experienced workers exit the industry and new workers take their place. Limited occupational health surveillance exists among certain transitional agricultural workforces. In the US, beginning farmers, i.e., agricultural workers with 10 years or less experience operating a farm, may differ from established farmers in terms of their demographics, length of experience within the agricultural industry, and occupational exposures and health outcomes. Separately, South Indian tea harvesting workers are exposed to occupational physical demands that are risk factors for musculoskeletal health outcomes. However, few studies have examined associations between occupational demands and musculoskeletal pain among these workers. Furthermore, no studies have identified additional occupational health issues within the tea harvesting process.
To address the lack of available knowledge on beginning farmers and tea harvesting workers, the goals of this mixed method study were to estimate the associations between musculoskeletal symptoms and occupational physical demands and occupational psychosocial stress among beginning farmers in the US and tea harvesting workers in South India. An additional goal was to identify occupational health issues within the tea harvesting process and to determine how tea harvesting workers conceptualize and prioritize these issues.
An online survey was conducted among beginning farmers across the U.S. Participants answered questions about their demographics, personal health and farm characteristics, occupational physical demands, occupational psychosocial stress, and musculoskeletal symptoms of the low back, neck/shoulder, and elbow/wrist/hand. An interviewer-based survey was conducted among South Indian tea harvesting workers. Participants answered questions about their demographics, personal health, occupational physical demands, occupational psychosocial stress, and musculoskeletal symptoms of the neck/upper back, lower back, upper extremity region, and lower extremity region. A qualitative study was conducted using focus groups among South Indian tea harvesting workers and semi-structured interviews and structured interviews among South Indian tea harvesting workers and supervisors.
Results from the cross sectional online survey concluded that musculoskeletal symptoms were common among beginning farmers. In addition, occupational physical demands were associated with musculoskeletal pain, particularly low back pain was associated with working in awkward and cramped positions, bending or twisting the back, and carrying, lifting, or moving heavy material by hand. Results from the cross sectional interviewer-based survey concluded that musculoskeletal symptoms were also common among South Indian tea harvesting workers. Musculoskeletal pain was associated with exposure to forceful exertions, awkward posture, and repetition. Finally, results from the qualitative study identified additional occupational health issues within tea harvesting, including the presence of animals and pelvic organ prolapse. The study further identified important influential stakeholders within the tea harvesting process. Findings from these three studies may be used to inform future health interventions among these transitional workforces.
Agriculture, Epidemiology, Ergonomics, Mixed methodology, Musculoskeletal pain, Occupational health
xiv, 200 pages
Includes bibliographical references.
Copyright © 2018 Maya Ramaswamy
Ramaswamy, Maya. "Assessing occupational health among transitional agricultural workforces: a mixed methods study among U.S. beginning farmers and South Indian tea harvesting workers." PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) thesis, University of Iowa, 2018.