Lay-Based Morbidity Profiles of Sugar Cane Workers: Testing a New Method Using Free Lists


Epidemiological profiles are key elements in preventive medicine and public health planning activities. There are no standard methods to identify these profiles. We explored the epidemiological profile of sugar cane workers in the municipality of Ginebra (Valle del Cauca, Colombia) using free lists of municipal morbidity data. We administered an instrument to 30 sugar cane workers, 15 health care workers and 15 people from the general community in order to compare the health problems experienced by the community. Sugar cane workers reported their own health problems and health professionals and community members served as informants for health problems in the general community. Respiratory problems were part of the morbidity profile of all groups evaluated, flu was part of the profile of the general community, and other respiratory problems were part of the profile of sugar cane workers and health personnel. Musculoskeletal problems were predominant only for sugar cane workers, and we found differences between the health problems expressed by the community and those reported by health personnel. The free lists method constitutes a quick, efficient, and useful tool to develop an approximation of an epidemiological profile and is easily interpreted, especially when typical and previously described occupational diseases are considered together with diseases associated with occupational groups. Epidemiological profiles based on free lists are useful to identify new opportunities for prevention strategies.

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Thank you to participants in the study for their collaboration during fieldwork.

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Correspondence to Alvaro J. Idrovo.

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All procedures performed in this study were in accordance with the Colombian ethical standards and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Coronel-Sánchez, V.H., Álvarez-Pabón, Y., Esteban, L.Y. et al. Lay-Based Morbidity Profiles of Sugar Cane Workers: Testing a New Method Using Free Lists. J Primary Prevent (2020) doi:10.1007/s10935-019-00575-y

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  • Health profile
  • Sugar cane worker
  • Respiratory diseases
  • Occupational health