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Pesticide Exposure Surveillance and Prevention Skills of Staff in Eastern North Carolina Health Departments

Tutor, Robin P. BS, MPH, OTR/L; Zarate, Max A. MSc, MPH, PhD; Loury, Sharon PhD, RN

Journal of Public Health Management & Practice: May/June 2008 - Volume 14 - Issue 3 - p 299–310
doi: 10.1097/01.PHH.0000316489.03254.9f
Commentary

Background: In 2006, the NC Division of Public Health reported on the prenatal occupational pesticide exposures of three female migrant farmworkers whose newborns had birth defects. Unknown response capabilities from local health departments to pesticide exposures led to this pilot study to determine the skills of staff in eastern NC health departments regarding pesticide exposure surveillance and prevention.

Methods: Randomly selected staff (n = 193) from seven health departments participated in the study. Using a self-administered questionnaire, data were gathered on staff's pesticide education, knowledge of resources to assist with pesticide issues, frequency of pesticide surveillance/education activities linked to routine services, and pesticide exposure prevention behaviors that were screened/educated for.

Findings: Twelve participants were environmental health staff. All staff completed an average of less than 0.17 pesticide education courses, have minimal knowledge of resources, and conduct limited pesticide exposure surveillance/education. Pesticide exposure surveillance and prevention activities were reported by less than 30 percent of all staff.

Conclusions: Inadequately trained staff lack access to, or knowledge of, resources to effectively engage in pesticide exposure surveillance and prevention activities. Recommendations: To enhance information on surveillance and epidemiology of pesticide chronic exposures at the NC Division of Public Health and to conduct further data analyses of this study.

• This study describes recommendations to ensure that pesticide exposure surveillance and education activities are integrated into health department services.

Robin P. Tutor, BS, MPH, OTR/L, is Education and Outreach Program Director, the North Carolina Agromedicine Institute, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina.

Max A. Zarate, MSc, MPH, PhD, is an Assistant Professor, the College of Health & Human Performance, Department of Health Education and Promotion, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina.

Sharon Loury, PhD, RN, is an Assistant Professor, the School of Nursing, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina.

Corresponding Author: Robin P. Tutor, BS, MPH, OTR/L, North Carolina Agromedicine Institute, 1157 VOA Site C Rd, Greenville, NC 27834 (tutorr@ecu.edu).

We thank the Pitt County Health Department for completing the trial run of the survey; Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, Duplin, Edgecombe, Greene, Nash, Pender, and Wayne County Health Departments for their assistance with data collection; Professional Paper Committee members Deborah Norton, MD, and Candace Kugel, CRNP, CNM, for their technical assistance and unending encouragement; C.B. Marcom and Suzanne Kelly for assisting with data compilation and analysis; Terry Davis, Landmark Printing and Erin Ward Designs for assistance with figure publication compliance.

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.