Current SW Ag Center Projects

Projects are awarded funding from NIOSH on a competitive basis.

MAY 2023

Addressing Health Disparities among Commercial Fishermen by Implementing a Community-based Intervention

PI: Shannon Guillot-Wright, PhD

The research team will conduct a mixed-methods ethnography, including semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and photovoice; work with shrimp fishermen to develop and pilot-test a culturally appropriate intervention to prevent slips, trips, and falls; evaluate the effectiveness of the adapted intervention among a new cohort of Gulf Coast shrimp fishermen, as measured by baseline and 6-month post-baseline survey self-report, as well as accident/fatality statistics; and work alongside shrimp fishermen in translating data for policymakers and practitioners to advance equitable and evidence-based workplace safety measures for Gulf Coast shrimp fishermen.


Characterization and Comparison of Worker Health Status on Western US Large Herd Dairy Farms

PI: David Douphrate, PhD, MPT, MBA, CPE, CSP

Utilizing a Total Worker Health®, approach the research team will characterize the health status of workers on large-herd dairy farms in the western U.S., which will include: the identification of job factors associated with health status of dairy farm workers; an estimation of COVID-19 prevalence and experiences among dairy farm workers; and a determination of on- and off-farm healthcare service delivery priorities, access barriers, feasibility, and utilization among dairy farm workers. The project will also estimate prevalence of cardiovascular, renal, and musculoskeletal risk factors among dairy farm workers by utilizing point-of-care biometric testing during on-farm health risk screening events. The team will assess healthcare utilization among participants referred to local health care providers due to identified health risks during on-farm health risk screenings. Lastly, this project will evaluate on- farm health risk screening satisfaction and benefits among dairy workers.


Integrating Motor Vehicle Crash and Injury Data in AgFF Surveillance and Research

PI: Eva Shipp, PhD

This project seeks to fulfill two aims: (1) Expand the SW Ag Center regional crash surveillance system to capture fatal and nonfatal injuries involving motor vehicles on public roadways and other locations and (2) Develop and evaluate a pilot set of AgFF MV OHIs for monitoring fatal and nonfatal injury due to motor vehicles in young and adult AgFF workers. The objective of this project is to accelerate the growth of surveillance systems that address the needs of AgFF workers and simultaneously fill gaps in the understanding of transportation-related injuries and their prevention. Findings will have a positive impact by fundamentally advancing surveillance methods through a cross-disciplinary, AgFF and transportation safety, approach.


Role of Bacterial Extracellular Vesicles from Organic Dust in Lung Inflammation

PI: Vijayakumar Boggaram, PhD

Based on the team’s recently published findings, they hypothesize that microbe associated molecular patterns (MAMPs) from dust EVs acting via toll-like receptor (TLR)-2 pathway and aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) activation increase oxidative stress and NF-KB and Stat3 activation to induce lung inflammation. This project will address two specific aims. In Specific Aim 1, the importance of MAMPs and the involvement of TLR-2 in the induction of lung inflammatory responses will be studied. In Specific Aim 2, the role of AhR and the crosstalk between TLR2 and AhR in the induction of inflammatory responses will be studied. Human Beas2B airway epithelial cell line, primary normal human airway epithelial cells and TLR2- and AhRdeficient mice will be employed to carry out the proposed studies. Our studies will fill gaps in our understanding of organic dust induced lung inflammation by unraveling mechanisms by which TLR2 and AhR pathways mediate induction of lung inflammation and development of lung injury by bacterial EVs, a key constituent of organic dust.


Feasibility Studies


Staying Strong on the Job: A Study of Exercise Benefits and Beliefs in Agricultural Workers

Mr. Nicholas Spokely, Oklahoma State University

U.S. agriculture is a dangerous occupation, with 20 deaths per 100,000 workers compared to all other occupations at just 3.6 deaths per 100,000 workers. Aside from the number of fatalities, 11% of agricultural workers experience musculoskeletal injury which are oftentimes the result of repetitive movements. This is especially prominent in the nursery industry as over 50% of all reported injuries are musculoskeletal. Despite the potential benefits of exercise, agricultural workers face underrepresentation in exercise literature and encounter unique barriers.

To address these issues, this project will evaluate implementation of the Stay Strong, Stay Healthy (SSSH) exercise program among nursery workers in the Oklahoma City metro area. SSSH, an established eight-week program, aims to enhance muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and coordination. With no formal evaluations of SSSH’s effectiveness among agricultural workers, the research has two objectives: to measure the program’s impact on physical and psychosocial aspects quantitatively and to explore participants’ perspectives on health behaviors and barriers to exercise qualitatively. The outcomes aim to provide practical insights to support the health and productivity of agricultural workers.


Effects of Organic Dust Inhalation of Neuroinflammation

Drs. Vijayakumar Boggaram and YanYan Wang, University of Texas at Tyler

It is well known that agricultural workers are at risk of developing respiratory symptoms and respiratory diseases. Recent studies have indicated the prevalence of brain disorders such as anxiety, dementia, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and brain cancer in agricultural workers. Work in agriculture, fishing, and forestry was associated with 46% greater odds of having dementia. Several studies have reported positive associations between agricultural work and brain cancer, with an estimate suggesting that agricultural work increases brain cancer risk by 13%. These brain disorders may be the result of chronic brain inflammation triggered by inhalation of organic dust found in agricultural environments.

Pathophysiological mechanisms underlying how organic dust inhalation results in the development of brain disorders are not known. Chronic lung inflammation due to inhalation of organic dust is thought to underlie the development and progression of respiratory diseases. Crosstalk between brain and lung has been suggested to be involved in the development of brain and lung disorders. We hypothesize that repeated exposure of mice to dust from industrial poultry farms via intranasal instillation of aqueous dust extract increases brain inflammation leading to the development of neurological and cognitive impairments. The long-term objectives of this proposal are to understand pathophysiological mechanisms mediating organic dust induced brain disorders.