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

Full Descriptions of Projects

New Action Research Study Explores Educators' COVID-19 Concerns new-action-research-study

The Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW) as awarded grant funding from the University of Massachusetts Lowell to study K-12 and higher education staff concerns about COVID-19 and school re-opening plans. We used Zoom to facilitate a virtual "IDEAS" design process with educator Design Teams as they brainstormed feasible solutions to some of the potential hazards that educators face during this extraordinary time. Three Design Teams were formed with 4-5 educators each - K-12, community college, and 4-year college - in summer 2020. Teams each met three times by Zoom to generate ideas about COVID-19 re-opening safety concerns, to brainstorm ways to address the safety concerns, and to evaluate proposed example school re-opening plans. Key findings were that facilitating a Design Team remotely was feasible and effective, using online video conferencing software. Additionally, we found that while more challenging, it is possible to effectively evaluate group dynamics and engagement in a virtual setting. Finally, we found that educators from different schools were able to generate solutions that could have a meaningful impact at multiple institutions of learning.

Lead investigator Laura Punnett explained the practical and public health significance of the study by saying, "This is a critical time to involve educators meaningfully in solution-building around COVID-19 and school re-opening. We are excited to share our design process and the data collected with educational leaders. We are also eager to apply the skills that we will develop in our ongoing fieldwork with health care personnel."

  • Project Title: New Action Research Study Explores Educators' COVID-19 Concerns
  • Funding Source: University of Massachusetts Lowell Internal Grant for COVID-19 Responsive Research. Grant number 1U19OH008857
  • Project Period: July 1, 2020 - December 30, 2020
  • Principal Investigator: Laura Punnett, Sc.D., Professor, University of Massachusetts Lowell

Exploring NEW Technology for Measuring Stress Reactions to Workplace Violence new-technology

A CPH-NEW pilot study will develop and test new technology to measure reactions to workplace violence among healthcare workers and corrections officers. The multi-disciplinary research team includes experts in workplace stress, violence, and biomedical engineering. The study will record continuous blood pressure measurements, along with measurements of cardiovascular function, overall daily physical activity at work and at home, and sleep quality and diurnal response patterns. The goal is to achieve a better understanding of how sleep, cardiovascular, and physical activity patterns are affected by stressful and violent incidents in the workplace. Wearable technology may also assist with occupational health research given the limitation of in-person contact during the period of the pandemic.

  • Project Title: Exploring New Technology for Measuring Stress Reactions to Workplace Violence
  • Funding Source: CPH-NEW Supplementary Fund. Grant number 1U19OH008857 from the U.S National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
  • Project Period: May 1, 2020 - August 31, 2021
  • Co-Investigators: William Shaw, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, UCONN Health, Jennifer Cavallari, Sc.D., Assistant Professor UConn Health Center, Alicia Dugan, Ph.D., Assistant Professor UConn Health Center
  • Co-Principal Investigators: Martin Cherniack, MD, MPH Professor of Medicine, UCONN Health Center, Jennifer Garza, Sc.D., Assistant Professor UCONN Health, Insoo Kim, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, UCONN Health

Assessing Nurse Experiences With Workplaces Incivility During the COVID-19 Pandemic incivility

CPH-NEW investigator Mazen El Ghaziri, Ph.D., RN from the University of Massachusetts Lowell Solomont School of Nursing is co-leading a multi-state cross-sectional study to explore the experiences of Registered Nurses (RNs) with workplace incivility during the COVID-19 pandemic. Collaborating institutions include UMass Medical School Graduate School of Nursing, University of Washington Tacoma School of Nursing and Healthcare Leadership, and University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions. Workplace incivility is associated with psychological and physical safety, PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other negative health outcomes in victims, as well as with adverse patient outcomes. Results from this project will allow the investigators to identify the exposures and inform the development of resources to address the incivility exposure during the response to COVID-19 and assist with proactive planning for future outbreaks, epidemics, and pandemics regarding this exposure.

  • Project Title: Assessing Nurse Experiences with Workplace Incivility During the COVID-19 Pandemic
  • Funding Source: Independently Funded
  • Project Period: June 10, 2020 - June 10, 2021
  • Co-Investigators: Participating PIs from the Collaborating Universities
  • UMass Lowell Principal Investigator: Mazen El Ghaziri, Ph.D., RN Assistant Professor University of Massachusetts Lowell

"Working on Wellness (WoW)" Program Evaluation WoW

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.

Opioid Hazard Awareness Training for Sand, Stone and Gravel Workers Cora

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.

  • Project Title: Opioid Hazard Awareness Training for Sand, Stone and Gravel Workers
  • Funding Source: Alpha Foundation
  • Project Period: September 1, 2019 - August 31, 2022
  • Principal Investigator: Cora Roelofs, Sc.D., Research Assistant Professor, UMass Lowell
  • Visit the Opioid Hazard Awareness Training Page.

CPH-NEW partners with the MA Department of Public Health to address opioids and work MaDPH-opioid

Workers in occupations at high risk for injuries are disproportionately impacted by the opioid epidemic1,2. To better understand prevent opioid hazards for workers, CPH-NEW contributed to two projects for the MA Department of Public Health as part of the Commonwealth's response to the opioid epidemic.

Project 1: We conducted key informant interviews and a focus group with workers to assess their perspectives on the relationship between work and opioid use, and to learn about opportunities for and barriers to prevention. 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. The formative assessment recommended policy and program interventions, including worker training that focused on upstream prevention. By understanding more of the complexity that lies behind opioid use, this research is helping guide MA DPH as the agency develops effective approaches to preventing opioid addiction and reducing opioid-related deaths among workers.

Project 2: Following the formative report, CPH-NEW researchers and MassCOSH collaborated with unions representing workers in high-risk occupations to design and implement opioid hazard awareness trainings for their members. An ironworkers' local, a statewide nurses' union and a Teamsters local trained 285 workers, including apprentices, stewards, and those nearing retirement. Seventy percent of respondents reported heavy or very heavy physical demands at work and one-half had experienced work-related pain. After training, participants reported more knowledge about opioids, less concern about stigma related to help-seeking, and more ability to provide help to a co-worker struggling with opioids. Peers with recovery experience provided a unique contribution to training. Researchers found that tailored job-specific and peer-delivered educational interventions may be able to reduce the potential impact of opioids on working people.

These projects was funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through its CDC Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Grant.

Read the Peer Training article: Roelofs, C., Sugerman-Brozan, J., Kurowk, A., Russell, L., Punnett, L. Promoting Opioid Awareness through a Union-Based Peer Training Model. New Solutions: A Journal of Environmental and Occupational Health Policy. First Published 10 a 2021.

View the Pre-Training Survey and Post-Training Survey.

  • Project Title: Worker Education about Opioids
  • Funding Source: Massachusetts Department of Public Health
  • Project Period: December 23, 2017 - September 1, 2019
  • Co-Investigator: Cora Roelofs, Sc.D., Research Scientist, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Principal Investigator: Laura Punnett, Sc.D., Professor, University of Massachusetts Lowell

RETAIN-CT: Improving long-term employment outcomes for Connecticut workers with musculoskeletal concerns RETAIN-CT

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 - April 30, 2018
  • Principal Investigator: William Shaw, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, UCONN Health

Preventing opioid use disorders among fishing industry workers Preventing-opioid-use-disorders-among-fishing-industry-workers

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 Preventing opioid use disorders among fishing industry workers 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 Changes

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) UConn-Aging

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 work-life. 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