Assessing dairy employees’ health status in South Dakota: Eating habits and general health care

Document Type


Publication Date



2019 American Dairy Science Association Annual Meeting: Cincinnati, Ohio


American Dairy Science Association


Journal of Dairy Science










dairy farm, farm workers, eating habits


Dairy farm workers’ eating habits may be compromised by their daily 12-h working shift. The intensive schedule demands high physical exertion with limited time for healthy choices, which include eating and general health care. The aim of this study was to assess South Dakota dairy farm employees’ general health status including nutrition and health care (number of visits to the physician). A survey written in Spanish was conducted in person (n = 70 workers on 3 farms) assessing various topics and details related to employees’ daily routine tasks, eating habits and general health status. Descriptive analysis was carried out using SPSS 25.0. The mean age was 28 ± 1.7 and 34 ± 1.6 for female and male, respectively. Most were Hispanics (96%) and males (76%). The large majority were Mexican (46%) and Guatemalan (44%) workers. Over half (53%) of workers were overweight or obese (mean BMI = 25.6 ± 4.2). Workers living in the United States 4 years or less had BMI = 25 whereas BMI was higher (>28) as years in the United States increased. One-third reported sleeping between 4 to 6 h/d and 46% reported eating in restaurants at least twice a week. The majority (80%) do not have health insurance, 53% have not seen a physician in the last 3 years, and 65% have not seen a dentist in the last 6 mo. Reasons for not receiving medical care included medical cost, lack of information, and language barriers. The only physical activity the workers practice is their job duties. They usually opt for healthier choices when arriving in the United States; however, as years increase, their habits change for either convenient fast food or pre-packaged food. Due to survey results, an educational workshop provided recommendations on improving general health care. The topics included healthier nutrition, awareness of cardiovascular diseases and oral health risk factors relating to eating habits. Personal health care might be influenced by individual values, culture, motivation, and economic opportunities. Strategic workshops designed to promote health education and healthy eating habits for farm workers are needed in their native language. Study supported by HICAHS (Colorado State University).