Document Type

Capstone Experience

Graduation Date


Degree Name

Master of Public Health



First Committee Member

Kendra Ratnapradipa

Second Committee Member

Elizabeth Lyden

Third Committee Member

Virginia Chaidez


The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed and magnified health disparities and social inequities that disproportionately burden racial and ethnic minorities. These disparities are readily seen within meatpacking communities, considering a lack of protections offered by the meatpacking industry have heightened COVID-19 susceptibility. These conditions have aggravated health inequities within rural communities throughout the span of the pandemic. Despite significant advances in research investigating the effect of COVID-19 on essential workers within the meatpacking plants, this research remains isolated within the meat processing industry. Moreover, research has focused predominantly on the pandemic’s impact on rural communities and the institutional barriers that hinder positive health outcomes among rural community members. However, additional research is needed to investigate the systemic barriers specifically within rural meatpacking-dependent communities. The current study aimed to utilize concepts from the socio-ecological model and knowledge gap theory to inform ways in which multiple levels of influence have contributed to accelerated health disparities within meatpacking communities. Using these two frameworks, this study provides insight on the effects of knowledge gaps among individuals of low socioeconomic status and the political directives that created challenges when controlling the COVID-19 outbreaks. This qualitative study analyzes data collected from interviews conducted with rural meatpacking community members such as healthcare personnel, community leaders, cultural group liaisons, and adult community members. This study concludes that multidimensional barriers have contributed to a gap in knowledge across socioeconomic strata, worsened work environments among the essential workforce, and created a need for leadership from local and national stakeholders.

Included in

Public Health Commons