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Investigating the Role of State and Local Health Departments in Addressing Public Health Concerns Related to Industrial Food Animal Production Sites

Jillian P. Fry, Linnea I. Laestadius, Clare Grechis, Keeve E. Nachman, Roni A. Neff
PLOS ONE, 2013

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Evidence of community health concerns stemming from industrial food animal production (IFAP) facilities continues to accumulate. This study examined the role of local and state health departments in responding to and preventing community-driven concerns associated with IFAP.


We conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with state and county health department staff and community members in eight states with high densities or rapid growth of IFAP operations. We investigated the extent to which health concerns associated with IFAP sites are reported to health departments, the nature of health departments' responses, and barriers to involvement.


Health departments' roles in these matters are limited by political barriers, lack of jurisdiction, and finite resources, expertise, and staff. Community members reported difficulties in engaging health departments on these issues.


Our investigation suggests that health departments frequently lack resources or jurisdiction to respond to health concerns related to IFAP sites, resulting in limited engagement. Since agencies with jurisdiction over IFAP frequently lack a health focus, increased health department engagement may better protect public health.

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