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NIOSH WorkLife Vol. 1 No. 2

WorkLife banner. A National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health

Message from the NIOSH WorkLife Program Manager

L. Casey Chosewood, MD
Senior Medical Officer for WorkLife

L. Casey Chosewood, MD Senior Medical Officer for WorkLife

Imagine a workplace that is not only hazard-free and safety-focused but one that is also committed to preserving and improving the health of its workers. NIOSH’s WorkLife efforts boldly support that goal.

Specifically, the NIOSH WorkLife:

  • Envisions a worker-centered environment that optimizes opportunities for the health of its workers.
  • Clearly recognizes how workplace conditions, policies, management strategies, and organization of work intimately affect the health, engagement, and productivity of workers.
  • Believes the unique, reciprocal relationship between employer and employee offers a meaningful platform for health promotion to succeed (or suffer).
  • Sees both the challenges and promise of the American workforce as we age; cope with the epidemic-level burden of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, back and joint conditions, anxiety, and depression; and believes the workplace can play a role in addressing these realities.
  • Understands the value that safer, healthier workplaces and workers bring to the national economy and how healthier workplaces can add years of quality life and security to American families.
  • Embraces the value of safety and health messages and skills-building that support and enhance employees’ work lives and home lives and erases the artificial separation of the two where practical.
  • Sees clear organizational value from integrating occupational health with primary and secondary prevention of disabling and health-robbing chronic diseases in the American workplace.

It is possible for employees, at the end of the workday, to go home healthier than when they arrived

We believe that the safest worker only evolves in an atmosphere where management is fully engaged in the wellbeing of its staff, the environment is hazard-free and full of opportunities for health promotion, and workplace policies support and encourage employees to pursue health.

We invite partners to join us in these efforts. Employers, labor organizations, professional organizations, academic and other partners, and the American grass roots can all play a role.

Share your story with us and we will help others benefit from your wins.

WorkLife Centers for Excellence Update

WorkLife logo

As part of the WorkLife Initiative NIOSH funded three WorkLife Centers for Excellence to support and expand multi-disciplinary research, training, and education in this area. The following contains updates from each center.

University of Iowa College of Public Health, Healthier Workforce Center for Excellence
The University of Iowa Healthier Workforce Center for Excellence (HWCE) at the College of Public Health continues to conduct research to implement, evaluate and compare two integrated health protection/health promotion models – Ergonomics and Wellness Study and Be Hipp Study.

The University of Iowa Healthier Workforce Center for Excellence (HWCE) at the College of Public Health continues to conduct research to implement, evaluate and compare two integrated health protection/health promotion models-Ergonomics and Wellness Study and Be Hipp Study.

The Ergonomics and Wellness Study is a quasi-intervention study being conducted at three separate manufacturing plants affiliated with one company. The purpose of the study is to examine the effects of a combined health protection (participatory ergonomics) and health promotion (participatory wellness) on absenteeism, ergonomic hazards, workmen’s compensation claims, and self-reported musculoskeletal discomfort and general health.

The Be Hipp (Be Engaged: Help Integrate Protection/Promotion Study) is a 3-year randomized, controlled study designed to explore new approaches to worksite wellness and workstation design. This study will examine the effect of combining health protection (ergonomics) and health promotion (wellness) on absenteeism, workers compensation, height/weight measures and self-reported health parameters. The study population includes office workers who are at increased risk for upper extremity and back injury.

Education and Collaboration
HWCE’s Learning Network conducts web-based seminars to connect international and domestic students unable to attend seminars in person.

The Center has launched a new Web site and will continue to update and revise it frequently to provide employers and researchers with valuable resources.

Outreach programs have been developed which include the following:

  1. 2010 Healthcare Summit: Building a Healthier Workforce and Understanding Healthcare Reform. For more information.
  2. Survey questions for small employers (2-9 employees) and a new module on wellness/prevention seeking employer’s views on their health protection and health promotion needs and plans. Results from this survey.
  3. The Real Iowan Research Initiative-a survey intended to gain insight into the needs and views of all Iowans, including those who are underserved, on employer-based health care.
  4. The Heart of Grinnell Initiative to improve the health of a community in Grinnell, IA. HWCE will be conducting two pilot projects with major employers in Grinnell over the next 18 months.

Center Director: James Merchant, M.D., Dr.P.H.
Center Coordinator: Alison Amendola, M.B.A. or 1-319-335-4200.

Harvard School of Public Health Center for Work, Health, and Wellbeing
The Harvard School of Public Health Center for Work, Health, and Wellbeing aims to integrate worksite occupational safety and health efforts and worksite health promotion, particularly in the healthcare and construction settings, in order to make possible a “synergism of prevention” to improve the health of workers through comprehensive risk reduction. Traditional efforts at protection of the workforce from occupational hazards have been largely independent from efforts to encourage individual choices and behaviors to reduce disease risk. This Center aims to bridge these fields and is based on solid partnerships and collaborations between these disciplines in order to build a research program aimed at protecting, preserving, and improving the health of the workforce.

The Center is a collaboration among the Harvard School of Public Health; the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute; Partners’ Health Care, Inc; Boston University School of Public Health; the New England Research Institutes; the Laborer’s Health and Safety Fund of North America; and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

The Center projects include the following:

  • Integrated Approaches to Improving the Health and Safety of Health Care Workers. This project is designed to examine the role of integrated polices and programs focused on musculoskeletal disorders, particularly low back pain disability; and health promotion through physical activity among patient care unit workers across 73 patient care units within two Partners HealthCare Systems, Inc. hospitals. Data collected will inform development and pilot testing of an intervention to reduce musculoskeletal disorders and promote physical activity. Through a supplement to this grant, we are additionally collecting biomarker data as further indicators of worker health outcomes.
  • Integrated Respiratory Health Intervention for Construction. This project is aimed at designing and assessing the effectiveness of an integrated intervention to reduce two widely prevalent and persistent hazards that threaten respiratory health of construction workers-exposure to silica/dust and cigarette smoking. This study is conducted in collaboration with the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America.
  • Education and Dissemination to Promote Worker Health. Conducted in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH), this project will develop and pilot test a toolkit for worksites to support implementation of programs integrating health promotion and occupational health and safety efforts. The project will result in a prototype integrated toolkit ready for production.

The Center will make it possible to advance the field by developing and applying rigorous research methodologies to evaluate integrated interventions across varying worksite settings. With a foundation at the Harvard School of Public Health, this Center builds on the rigorous scientific base and international leadership in transdisciplinary research on the health of the workforce.

Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW)
The Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW) is a cross-disciplinary initiative by investigators from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the University of Connecticut. As a NIOSH-sponsored Center for Excellence to Promote a Healthier Workforce, its mission is to improve the health of the working population through improving the work environment, with special focus on ergonomics in both its physical and psychosocial domains. Outcomes of particular interest are musculoskeletal, mental, and cardiovascular health and their risk factors, as well as general health-related quality of life. The Center emphasizes worker involvement in program design and implementation for both workplace health promotion (WHP) and occupational health and safety (OHS).

CPH-NEW comprises four projects. Two are intervention studies, with complementary designs, evaluating employee health and cost-effectiveness of OHS and WHP programs.

Promoting Physical and Mental Health of Caregivers through Trans-disciplinary Intervention (Pro-Care) is underway in a large chain of nursing homes that undertook a “safe resident handling” program, comprising purchase and installation of resident lifting equipment along with training, policies, operation and maintenance procedures. Some centers also have health promotion programs, coordinated by the regional employee health office, and the investigators initiated participatory WHP teams in three other centers. This permits a comparison of worker exposures and health outcomes in three study groups: ergonomics only and ergonomics in combination with either type of WHP.

The Health Improvement through Training and Employee Control (HITEC) program is being carried out in the manufacturing and public sectors. It will compare a set of traditional “best practices” WHP and ergonomics activities with an experimental program featuring employee participation in design and implementation. Both sets of workplaces are supported by the same investigators and address similar content areas. In contrast to ProCare, participating sites are unionized and have predominantly male workforces. Overlapping research instruments will support pooled data analyses.

The translation and education project, Stress@Work seeks to disseminate scientific knowledge on occupational stress and its health outcomes to professionals from other disciplinary backgrounds, in close collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). The longer-term goals are to develop and offer educational materials to improve knowledge and practice skills related to workplace stress; and to evaluate knowledge transfer and the perceived utility of the information. Outreach to date has separately engaged employee assistance professionals (EAPs), practicing cardiologists, and worksite wellness professionals.

The newest study, A Research to Practice (R2P) Toolkit for Establishing Sustainable Workplace Health Protection/Promotion Programs, builds on all three original projects. Study sites have been recruited from workplaces participating in a MDPH Working on Wellness program and that were explicitly interested in addressing sources of job stress. The investigators will convert research materials (employee survey, interview scripts, training kit, evaluation tools, etc.) into practitioner-friendly formats, implement the participatory program, and obtain feedback.

Center co directors: Dr. Laura Punnett, Department of Work Environment, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA; Dr. Martin Cherniack, Occupational Medicine and Ergonomics Technology Center, University of Connecticut, Farmington CT.
For more information:
send email or go to
Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace or
University of Connecticut Health Center.

WorkLife Resources

worker with lunch pail

New! Health Protection and Promotion Tool Kit
Be one of the first to use this new Web resource! Do you need an evidence-based approach to health promotion in your workplace that also recognizes the importance of protecting workers and sees the value in building healthy, employee-centered environments? Check out this newly launched Web toolkit for promoting and protecting the health of workers-a collaboration between NIOSH WorkLife and CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Assessment, planning, implementation, and evaluation of a wide range of integrated programs are covered here.