A stock image of a diverse group of people smiling at the camera.

CPH-NEW Related Research Projects

Related Research Projects

For full descriptions of these projects please click on the links below.


Full Descriptions of Projects


This project is a multi-stakeholder collaborative intervention program working to improve long-term return-to-work and stay-at-work outcomes for Connecticut workers with musculoskeletal concerns.

Work disability represents an enormous burden for workers, employer, and insurers. This project targets Connecticut workers with either occupational or non-occupational musculoskeletal disorders and is modeled after the Centers of Occupational Health and Education program (COHE) implemented in the State of Washington. RETAIN-CT addresses the problem of growing work disability in the Connecticut workforce

RETAIN-CT will establish a new coordinated effort among several state agencies and organizations including health care providers and insurers. The program goals are to: (1) build capacity and public-private partnerships necessary to create specialized return-to-work (RTW) training for health care providers; (2) create a uniform billing system that enables insurance companies to reimburse providers; (3) develop a State-based early RTW coordinator program in the workforce development system; and (4) design metrics for the continuous evaluation and improvement of these systems.

The current 18-month grant will support Phase 1, a small-scale piloted version of RETAIN-CT that will focus on the Capitol Region and involve a single insurer. The Phase I experience will inform a subsequent application for a 5-year Phase 2 study that will implement the program statewide.

RETAIN (Retaining Employment and Talent after Injury/Illness Network) CT is part of a national effort led by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) in partnership with the DOL’s Employment and Training Administration (ETA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA).

  • Project Title: RETAIN-CT
  • Funding Source: Connecticut Department of Labor/ U.S. Department of Labor
  • Project Period: October 1, 2018 to April 30, 2018
  • Principle Investigator: William Shaw, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, UCONN Health

Preventing opioid use disorders among fishing industry workers

This project is a partnership between the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UML) and the Fishing Partnership Support Services (FPSS), a nonprofit organization that promotes the health and well-being of commercial fishing workers and their families across New England. A Community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach was conducted and findings will be used to inform the development of relevant interventions to prevent and reduce opioid use disorders among fishing industry workers.

The results of the study have been recently published. The FPSS is working with local, state, national and international stakeholders to address fishing health and safety. Findings from this study are expected to support public health initiatives that integrate workplace health and safety protection along with evidence-based primary, secondary, and tertiary interventions in order to address opioid use disorders, particularly among workers in strenuous jobs, such as fishing workers.

Changes in the way we work: the non-standard workday and worker and family health

CPH-NEW researchers Jennifer Cavallari, ScD and Alicia Dugan Ph.D. of UConn Health Center were awarded a grant entitled, "Changes in the way we work: the non-standard workday and worker and family health" from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

This 2.5 year study will look at the health impacts of extended and irregular workdays on workers and their families. Says Co-principal Investigator Jennifer Cavallari, “A Total Worker Health approach recognizes that work affects health and well-being for workers, their families and the wider community. We wanted to explore that. We’re planning assess community factors such as volunteerism and community engagement that can be impacted by irregular and extended work hours.”

The study will focus on workers and their families in transportation, manufacturing, and corrections industries. In addition to assessing the relationship between work hours and well-being, study organizers will also work with teams of workers to design and test solutions to help alleviate the problems. According to Cavallari, “Extended and irregular work hours is a major barrier to well-being in many industries. Unpredictability of work schedules is especially harmful to workers. Our goal is to help organizations use a grassroots approach to create solutions for the workplace, the workers, and families to improve well-being at multiple levels.”

  • Project title: Changes in the way we work: the non-standard workday and worker and family health
  • Funding source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
  • Project Period: September 15, 2017 - March 14, 2020
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Jennifer Cavallari, ScD, Assistant Professor UConn Health Center
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Alicia Dugan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor UConn Health Center

University of Connecticut Study on Aging, Musculoskeletal Disorders and Work Capacity (UConn-SAM)

This project is a 3-year renewal for a follow up study of aging manufacturing workers. University of Connecticut Study on Aging, Musculoskeletal Disorders and Work Capacity (UConn-SAM) (R01OH008929) is a longitudinal study of musculoskeletal disorders in the aging manufacturing workforce in Connecticut, which now enters its second phase. Although not originally funded as part of the CPH-NEW Total Worker Health (TWH) center research, UConn-SAM results demonstrated an interaction between work conditions, family demands and income and retirement pressures. The findings highlighted many TWH concepts and demonstrated a need for intervention research with this population.

UConn-SAM coincided with a transformative period (2008-2014) of economic instability. To date, the principles findings have been reduced patterns of retirement and health related job change, in comparison with historical patterns. These effects were largely associated with increased financial insecurity and perceived worsening of organizational and psychosocial conditions at work. Despite the expected age related changes in workers’ physiologic function, the accompanying expected retirements and job changes did not occur. UConn-SAM will extend observations for a full decade in order to determine if the changing patterns of work, retirement and consequential impairment persist or were specific to the Great Recession.

UConn-SAM also includes a laboratory component, designed to optimize physical testing and work activity measurement. The laboratory component will determine the best methods for dynamic strength testing, sub maximum exercise testing, and activity monitoring in the workplace in this age group.Finally, UConn-SAM uncovered an unexpectedly high rate of eldercare responsibilities in this hourly workforce with implications for quality of worklife. The project includes pilot interventions involving eldercare, using participatory action methods and engagement with employers and area social service agencies.

Reflecting on the significance of the extended study period, Principal Investigator Martin Cherniack explains, "A surprising finding through 2014 was that older workers were not leaving work for health and non-health related reasons, despite a seeming improving economy. There was also a general description of a deteriorating work environment. A second unexpected finding was the high prevalence of eldercare responsibilities in the study population with an implication of adverse impacts on workplace health. We believe that some age and retirement studies may be missing these powerful cohort effects, and we hope to inform future studies that focus on aging and work. As the US population ages, it will be more important than ever to understand the best ways of keeping older workers healthy and productive."

  • Project Title: University of Connecticut Study on Aging, Musculoskeletal Disorders and Work Capacity (UConn-SAM)
  • Funding source: CDC/NIOSH
  • Project Period: September 30, 2017 - September 29, 2020
  • Principal Investigator: Martin Cherniack, MD, MPH Professor of Medicine, UConn Health Center
  • Co-Principal Investigator: Alicia Dugan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine, UConn Health Center