By Karen Angelo
It’s no secret that when illness strikes, most people prefer to be cared for at home.
The good news is that advanced medical procedures and supportive care that once were available only in hospitals can now be performed at home. This typically requires the services of home care aides whose responsibilities include everything from dressing wounds to lifting and moving patients. The bad news is that as medical care moves to the home, aides and their clients face new safety challenges.
Prof. Margaret Quinn of the Department of Public Health has been leading a team to research safer solutions that protect the health of home care aides and their clients. Her decades-long research and contributions to improving safety in home care recently earned her national recognition.
The American Industrial Hygiene Association named Quinn as the recipient of the Alice Hamilton Award, which is presented to an outstanding woman who has made a lasting achievement in the field of occupational and environmental hygiene.
Hamilton, the first woman appointed to the faculty at Harvard Medical School in 1919, was a pioneer in the field of toxicology, studying occupational illnesses and the dangerous effects of industrial metals and chemical compounds on the human body.
“I’m honored to receive this award, especially since it is named after Dr. Alice Hamilton, a pioneer who wrote one of the first modern textbooks on occupational and environmental health,” says Quinn, who directs the Safe Home Care Project of the Lowell Center for Sustainable Production. “By improving the home care work environment for aides, our research helps agencies recruit, retain, develop and grow this workforce, which is necessary to care for our aging population. Safer conditions for aides also translates to safer conditions for clients and their families.”
The nation’s population is rapidly aging. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double from 46 million today to over 98 million by 2060.
Quinn’s research of more than 15 years, funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, has led to solutions for aides that help prevent musculoskeletal strain, slips, trips and falls, fires and explosions, injuries from sharps (such as hypodermic needles) and violence.
Her most recent research provides scientific evidence on ways to clean and disinfect without causing health issues such as asthma for aides, nurses and patients. The research identified products and practices that are both effective for infection prevention and safe for respiratory health.
Quinn will accept her award at the 2018 American Industrial Hygiene Conference and Exposition on May 23. Her research is also gaining international notice: Quinn will present her work at the International Congress on Occupational Health in Dublin, Ireland, in May.