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Live near a hog farm? You might be at a higher risk for some health problems, Duke study finds

Thinking about buying a home near a hog farm? You might want to reconsider.

Duke researchers established that there is a correlation between residents living near hog farms and increased mortality rates. The study compared life expectancies of people of similar socioeconomic statuses in communities located farther from hog farms to account for socioeconomic factors known to affect people’s health. 

The results showed that proximity to hog farms led to even worse health outcomes. 

“The geographic distribution of health effects in the southeast of the state are linked to the hog farms,” said H. Kim Lyerly, George Barth Gellar professor in the School of Medicine and senior author of the paper.

Several designs of analysis—including big data and computational techniques in evaluating demographics, smoking and access to care among residents—were used to indicate health outcomes in the study.

“The people living in areas in which the swine concentration is 215 hogs per square kilometer, called group two, had the poorest health outcomes,” Lyerly said. 

Given that these issues have persisted over many decades, he encouraged residents to pay attention and doctors to notice behavioral issues and infections of their patients. Lyerly added that the next steps are for local specialists to provide surveys asking residents about their access to medical care, occupation and residential exposures to find the spectrum of diseases linked to hog farm proximity and the most vulnerable populations. 

“Screening for diseases like kidney disease and anemia in the early stages, treatment adherence, providing education and monitoring the chemicals people bring into the house all will lead to better health outcomes,” said Julia Kravchenko, assistant professor of surgery and lead author of the study. 

To help improve the health of North Carolina residents, the Duke University Environmental Health Scholars Program is hosting the 2018 Fall Forum: Health and the Environment in North Carolina at the beginning of November. 

The workshop will discuss articles published in the North Carolina Medical Journal—just as this one was—and will feature a number of speakers, according to the event's website. The aim is to create relationships with the media, the political front and the community to plan out the next steps for North Carolina residents.  

“The first part is for the community to recognize the problem, and the second part is to perform a balancing act, as some communities want to partner up, while others want to stop hog farming altogether,” Lyerly said.

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