Graduation Date

Fall 12-16-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Medical Sciences Interdepartmental Area

First Advisor

Bruce Gordon

Second Advisor

Toby Schonfeld

Third Advisor

Chris Kratochvil

Fourth Advisor

Laura Bilek

MeSH Headings

Essential work AND infection prevention and control AND ethics AND COVID-19 AND preparedness AND health policy


Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, ethical guidance for workers during epidemics and pandemics centered on healthcare workers, which meant there was not guidance to address critical contextual issues for many on the frontlines of the pandemic. Meat processing workers are a key example of workers deemed essential during the COVID-19 pandemic and facing conditions of elevated risk without adequate public health guidance or resources to control disease spread. Meat processing workers are an underserved, resource-limited, and vulnerable workforce that face occupational health and safety risks. Meat processing and other essential workers have heightened health disparities due to the social determinants of health. Ethical guidance must address the deficits workers face to mitigate exacerbating existing health disparities.

When the nation deems an industry essential, protections for workers must be provided to those who are prioritized to work at increased risk of exposure. This dissertation addresses the gap in scholarship on essential work through the following perspectives: (1) examining ethical obligations that underlie infection prevention and control (IPC) guidance for essential workers during an emerging infectious disease outbreak; (2) defining the ethical and effective health interventions to prevent and control outbreak for essential workers; (3) applying ethical values to pandemic guidance under the conditions of emerging science and resource scarcity; (4) analyzing structural barriers that prioritize the economic interest of essential industries above effective IPC for workers. Future studies are needed to develop evidence based guidance for essential industries and ethical pandemic frameworks must be developed to address the social and structural deficits faced by essential workers prior to the next pandemic.


2022 Copyright, the authors

Available for download on Wednesday, December 04, 2024