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Meenal Sawant, MPH, PhD

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GHES LMIC Fellow 2019-2020

FELLOWSHIP SITE: Public Health Research Institute of India (PHRII)
U.S. INSTITUTION: Florida International University

Project Title: Health outcome, occupational & health related perspectives of tobacco farmers in rural India: An exploratory study

Tobacco farming is a growing industry in some low-middle income countries. However, exposure to large amounts of poisonous chemicals, biological agents, nicotine and tobacco dust during production processes could increase the risk of developing serious negative health consequences among tobacco farmers, such as Green tobacco syndrome (GTS) and respiratory diseases. However, none of the studies so far have examined the linkage between individual, social, behavioral and/or environmental factors and negative health outcomes in this population. Thus, we do not know much about the etiology of these diseases.  Based on observations and case studies carried out among farmers from different countries, some researchers have recommended using personal protective equipment’s (PPE), educating farmers about the negative consequences and motivating them to undergo routine health check-ups as preventive measures and encouraging farmers to shift to alternative crops as an intervention measure. But most of the time, it is observed that these measures are not followed strictly due to barriers such as high costs of PPEs, financial problems and market fluctuation in the cost of alternative crops and ignorance or negligence by farmers. Clearly, there is a gap in knowledge about the extent of health outcomes and associated risk factors. Moreover, studies exploring farmers’ personal beliefs and perspectives about their occupation and health are rare. Lack of this knowledge could hinder the ability to design appropriate strategies that could address the needs of this community.  Tobacco farming community in Hunsur taluka near Mysore, India is an ideal population that could provide an opportunity to fill these gaps in knowledge.