“…you earn money by suffering pain:” Beliefs About Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Among Latino Poultry Processing Workers
- 349 Downloads
The nature of poultry processing puts workers at risk for developing neurological injuries, particularly carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). Many poultry processing workers are Latino immigrants. This qualitative analysis uses an explanatory models of illness (EMs) framework to describe immigrant Latino poultry processing workers’ (Guatemalan and Mexican) beliefs of CTS. Understanding these workers’ CTS EMs provides a foundation for recommendations to reduce the risk factors for this occupational injury. In-depth interviews were completed with 15 poultry processing workers diagnosed with CTS. Systematic qualitative analysis was used to delineate beliefs about causes, symptoms, physiology, treatments, quality-of-life and health implications of CTS. Participants’ EMs largely reflect current biomedical understanding of CTS. These EMs are similar for Guatemalan and Mexican workers. Beliefs about causes include factors in the work environment (e.g., repetition, cold) and individual physical weakness. Treatments include over-the-counter medicine, as well as traditional remedies. Most know the future impact of CTS will include chronic pain. These workers know what causes CTS and that curing it would require quitting their jobs, but feel that they must endure CTS to support their families. Latino poultry processing workers, whether Guatemalan or Mexican, have a fairly complete understanding of what causes CTS, how to treat it, and what they must do to cure it. However, situational factors force them to endure CTS. Policy changes are needed to change the structure of work in poultry processing, particularly line speed and break frequency, if the prevalence of CTS is to be reduced.
KeywordsImmigrant workers Health beliefs Latinos Minority health
This research was supported by Grant R01 OH009251 from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The findings and conclusions in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- 1.National Chicken Council. Per capita consumption of poultry and livestock, 1965 to estimated 2013, in pounds. 2013. http://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/about-the-industry/statistics/per-capita-consumption-of-poultry-and-livestock-1965-to-estimated-2012-in-pounds/. Accessed 16 April 2013.
- 2.Striffler S. Chicken: the dangerous transformation of America’s favorite food. New Haven: Yale University Press; 2005.Google Scholar
- 3.Stull DD. Meat and (wo)men: meatpacking’s consequences for communities. Kans J Law Public Policy. 1994;3:112–8.Google Scholar
- 4.Stull DD, Broadway MJ. Slaughterhouse blues: the meat and poultry industry in North America. Belmont: Wadsworth/Thomson; 2004.Google Scholar
- 7.Government Accountability Office. Workplace safety and health: safety in the meat and poultry industry, while improving, could be further strengthened. 2005 (Report No. GAO-05-096). Washington: U.S. GAO.Google Scholar
- 9.U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational employment statistics, occupational employment and wages, May 2012. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes513022.htm. Accessed 14 April 2013.
- 12.Kleinman A. Patients and healers in the context of culture. Berkeley: University of California Press; 1980. p. 427.Google Scholar
- 13.Kleinman A. Illness narratives: suffering, healing and the human condition. New York: Basic Press; 1988. p. 284.Google Scholar
- 21.Rubel AJ, Hass MR. Ethnomedicine. In: Sargent CF, Johnson TM, editors. Medical anthropology: contemporary theory and method. Westport: Praeger; 1996. p. 113–30.Google Scholar
- 23.Pichardo-Geisinger R, Muñoz-Ali D, Arcury TA, Blocker JN, Grzywacz JG, Mora DC, Chen H, Schulz MR, Feldman SR, Quandt SA. Dermatologist-diagnosed skin disease among Latino immigrant poultry processing and other manual workers in North Carolina. Int J Dermatol. 2013;52(11):1342–8.Google Scholar
- 24.Kochhar R, Suro R, Tafoya S. The new Latino South: the context and consequences of rapid population growth. Pew Research Hispanic Center 2005. http://www.pewhispanic.org/2005/07/26/the-new-latino-south/. Accessed 11 April 2013.
- 26.Miles MB, Huberman AM. Qualitative data analysis: an expanded sourcebook. 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 1994. p. 338.Google Scholar
- 34.Almana A. Setting the record straight on the proposed chicken inspection rule. USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. 2012. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/News_&_Events/NR_041312_01/index.asp. Accessed 30 April 2013.
- 35.Philpott T. USDA ruffles feathers with new poultry inspection policy. 2013. http://www.motherjones.com/tom-philpott/2013/04/usda-inspectors-poultry-kill-lines-chicken. Accessed 30 April 2013.
- 36.Southern Poverty Law Center. Unsafe at these speeds: Alabama’s poultry industry and its disposable workers. Mongomery, AL: Southern Poverty Law Center and Alabama Appleseed Center for Law & Justice; 2013.Google Scholar
- 45.Durocher E, Gibson BE, Rappolt S. Occupational justice: a conceptual review 2013. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14427591.2013.775692. Accessed 3 May 2013.
- 46.Cartwright MS, Walker FO, Blocker JN, Schulz MR, Arcury TA, Grzywacz JG, Mora D, Chen H, Easton B, Quandt SA. One-year incidence of carpal tunnel syndrome in Latino poultry processing workers and other Latino manual workers. Am J Ind Med. 2013. doi: 10.1002/ajim.22250.
- 48.Risso F. Immigrant workers at non-union chicken plant stop work over dangerous conditions. Facing South (The Institute for Southern Studies). 2010. http://www.southernstudies.org/2010/07/immigrant-workers-at-non-union-chicken-plant-stop-work-over-dangerous-conditions.html. Accessed 23 Aug 2013.
- 49.Whitlock C. Immirant poultry workers’ struggle for respeckt draws national attention: Labor unions test Case. Raleigh News & Observer, November 30, 1996. http://www.laborers.org/Raleigh_Chichen_11-30-96.html. Accessed 23 Aug 2013.
- 50.Musolin K, Ramsey JG, Wassell JT, Hard DL, Mueller C. Musculoskeletal disorders and traumatic injuries among employees at a poultry processing plant. Interim Report HHE No. 2012-0125. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. 2013.Google Scholar