Analyzing Data from a Heat Illness Prevention Study

November 30, 2016

We interviewed Gail Wadsworth, executive director of the California Institute for Rural Studies (CIRS), a non-governmental organization based in Davis, California, United States. Gail uses ATLAS.ti to analyze data in a health illness prevention study, which is part of their health applied work with farmworkers in California.

Gail, let us know a little about the California Institute for Rural Studies?

The California Institute of Rural Studies (CIRS) works at the nexus of social justice, agriculture, and environmental health. CIRS strives to increase social justice in rural California for all residents, particularly for marginalized populations, by building sustainable communities based on a healthy agriculture. CIRS’ public interest research informs public policy and inspires action for social change. Our research uses both quantitative and qualitative methods. One key strategy for influencing decision-makers is disseminating relevant and timely information to impacted groups and populations, as well as to the decision-makers themselves.

What about you?  What is your professional background and interests?

Since coming to CIRS in 2009, my research has focused on labor rights, fair wages, heat illness prevention, healthy workplaces, food insecurity, regional planning for sustainability, farmworker housing and environmental justice in rural regions. I have a Bachelor of Arts degree in Anthropology and a Master of Science degree in International Agricultural Development. I did post-graduate research in Geography at Royal Holloway University of London.  My current research projects include a long term study of the behaviors and beliefs of farmworkers with regard to heat illness using data from farmworker focus groups, a comprehensive farmworker housing assessment in Monterey and Salinas Counties, a review of best practices in farmworker housing for San Mateo County, and an environmental health assessment in five marginalized Eastern Coachella Valley communities.

In what project are you using ATLAS.ti?

As part of the California Heat Illness Prevention Study, we examine socio-cultural perspectives and behaviors relevant to heat-related illness (HRI) using qualitative methods including focus groups and key informant interviews.

Specifically, we are responsible for assessing risk factors for HRI by examining knowledge and perceptions among a broad base of stakeholders including farm workers, farmers, and farm labor contractors.  Identify barriers to adoption of heat illness prevention strategies on farms and find possible solutions acceptable to all parties. Our study is focused in the Central Valley of California where most incidents of heat illness and death among farm workers are reported.

For heat-related interventions targeting farm laborers to be successful, it is critical to obtain a better understanding of factors that prevent them from taking action to protect their health and their lives. Our goal is to obtain qualitative data on broad community experiences with heat related illness (HRI) including farm worker, farmer and other involved stakeholder perspectives and reactions to HRI.  We use qualitative methods including stakeholder interviews and farm worker focus groups to identify perception of risk related to HRI.  Using interviews and conversations allows respondents to discuss their actual experiences in a relaxed manner.  Such qualitative research adds richness of understanding and generates hypotheses.

From information collected, we are able to investigate questions concerning procedural issues that may impact the worker’s decision with regard to heat illness prevention.  By including the perspective of growers and other stakeholders we will be able to identify on-farm barriers to the adoption of heat illness protective strategies and suggest strategies to alleviate these barriers.

Currently, we employ a consultant to analyze our data in ATLAS.ti. The information that we have received as a result of ATLAS.ti use has been timely and incredibly rich.However, as we proceed and accumulate more data, we believe direct access and knowledge of the data and analysis software will allow us to continue to expand our analyses and to review the work done to date by our consultant.

Would you like to add anything?

We are excited to have direct access to ATLAS.ti. Knowing we can analyze our data in house opens up a universe of studies we might not have considered without it.

Thank you!

For more information on the the CIRS, visit the organization’s website at

Share this Article