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Study finds health departments hindered in addressing health concerns from animal production sites
Date:2/4/2013

staff resources, lack of expertise or training, jurisdictional issues, and political pressures can hinder follow-up.

"Even though health departments are charged with monitoring and responding to the public health concerns of a community, most interviewed for the study said they had no involvement in decisions made about animal production sites," said Jillian Fry, PhD, lead author of the study. Primary regulatory authority over animal production sites, according to a report by the National Council of State Legislatures, frequently falls within the departments of the Environment or Natural Resources. "We believe formal involvement by state and local health departments may better protect the health of individuals in the community," said Fry.

Political and economic pressures were frequently cited as barriers to health departments becoming involved. Similarly, the researchers heard from participants that efforts to establish ordinances regulating animal production sites are often hindered by economic and political power held by agricultural corporations. As a result of the lack of health department involvement with concerns regarding animal production sites, community members surveyed noted they were, in essence, attempting to fill the role of health departments by performing environmental monitoring, and educating and informing the community. Community members said they often sought help and information from other government agencies, researchers, and other groupson a national or state levelto answer questions about animal production health concerns.

Community members surveyed said engaging a health department about animal production concerns had never led to a resolution. "Health departments generally don't get involved," noted Fry. "When they do, our study found that usually no action is ultimately taken to correct a potentially serious threat to public health." Community leaders contacted in the study unanimously supported an expanded role for health
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Contact: Chris Stevens
dsteven@jhsph.edu
410-502-7578
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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