For full descriptions of these projects please click on the links below.
CPH-NEW personnel worked in collaboration with health scientists at the UMass Medical School to evaluate the Massachusetts "Working on Wellness" (MA WoW) program. Funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health through the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund, MA WoW program provided training, technical assistance, and seed funding to Massachusetts employers to establish comprehensive workplace wellness programs that combined health-promoting policies, environmental supports, and awareness and education programs. With technical coaching, the WoW program successfully delivered services to organizations that previously had no formal wellness program and few wellness policies or supportive environments, and showed promising early improvements in health-promoting behaviors. Importantly, it reached a large number of small and moderate-size employer organizations, and a substantial number of low-wage workers, workers of color, and those without a college degree. A substantial proportion of these workers had moderate to high health risks, especially in the areas of overweight and not meeting recommended guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption. This highlights the high relevance of the WoW program to the needs of the Commonwealth's workforce.
The opioid epidemic has heavily impacted the mining workplace, yet there have been limited responses to address the crisis through health and safety training and management. This project will develop a peer-delivered opioid awareness training module and employer guidance for the sand, stone and gravel sector in Massachusetts. The training will be piloted as part of the annual required MSHA training provided by the MA Department of Labor Standards to over 700 miners in Massachusetts in January 2020 and 2021, and during training sessions at participating operators' facilities. It is expected that at least 800 miners will receive this training each year for two years.
Following training evaluation in the sand, stone and gravel sector, the materials will be modified and disseminated to other mining sectors. While it is difficult to definitively link an education and communications intervention to changes in health outcomes, this project will assess intermediate measures that indicate progress toward safer worksites and a healthier workforce. This intervention will target a high-risk worker population with prevention messaging and access to needed prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery resources.
Workers in occupations at high risk for injuries are also disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic1. To examine the relation between work and opioid use, and to learn about opportunities for and barriers to prevention, CPH-NEW conducted interviews of key informants to understand the issues behind the statistics. Employers, union representatives, legal and medical professionals offered their perspectives on the workers compensation system, Employee Assistance Programs, the practice of "working hurt," and workplace drug testing. According to Dr. Cora Roelofs, who conducted the study, "Getting hurt on the job can play a role initiating the use of opioids for pain management. The workplace can be an important venue for education and services for workers and for primary prevention of injuries, addictions and overdoses." However, there are currently few programs which support employees in pain to manage without painkillers and to avoid jeopardizing their employment. By understanding more of the complexity that lies behind opioid use, this research will help guide MA DPH as the agency develops effective approaches to preventing opioid addiction and reducing opioid-related deaths among workers. The study was funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through its CDC Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Grant.
1Dissel R. Ohio construction workers seven times more likely to die of an opioid overdose in 2016. The [Cleveland] Plain Dealer (2017, accessed 7 March 2018).
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:
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).
Principal Investigator: William Shaw, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, UCONN Health
This project is a partnership between the University of Massachusetts Lowell (UMass Lowell) 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.”
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."