LOWELL, Mass. – UMass Lowell researchers focused on safeguarding worker health will share in $7 million in federal funding to pursue new projects designed to better protect the well-being of employees in a variety of professions.
Awarded by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) with additional funding from the American Rescue Plan, the package of grants will support studies conducted by faculty experts in the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW), a joint initiative between UMass Lowell and the University of Connecticut that began in 2006.
NIOSH, an agency within the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has again named CPH-NEW as one of 10 Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health (TWH) in the nation.
The Total Worker Health approach seeks to protect workers from job-related health and safety hazards while proactively promoting injury and illness prevention efforts to help ensure the well-being of employees. Each center is a regional hub for worker health-related research and practice that builds the scientific evidence necessary to develop new solutions for complex occupational safety and health problems.
CPH-NEW researchers will focus on four projects over the life of the five-year grant funding. They are:
• A long-term intervention study to embed a TWH program for health care personnel, with a focus on sustainability and union involvement. Leading the work will be UMass Lowell’s Alicia Kurowski, biomedical engineering research professor.
• A two-year study of best practices for integrating employee well-being into employer crisis preparation and training for small business and human resources professionals. UMass Lowell’s Cora Roelofs, biomedical engineering research professor, will head the team for this work.
• A five-year study on the health and well-being of schoolteachers that will investigate work-life balance, engagement and burnout and to implement and evaluate a teacher-led program to deal with job stressors. Leading the project will be UConn Health’s Jennifer Cavallari, associate professor of public health sciences.
• An outreach project that promotes the TWH approach through continuing education programs for researchers, health and engineering professionals and employees and expands the ways in which organizations can adopt TWH practices to protect and promote the health of their employees in the evolving workplace. Leading the Outreach Core will be UMass Lowell’s Suzanne Nobrega, who is also the center associate director.
“The Total Worker Health program is visionary in its attempt to integrate all types of workplace features that impact workforce well-being and safety, either directly or indirectly. CPH-NEW began with a unique focus on full-scale worker participation in safety and health programs. These new projects move us even closer to put into action this new knowledge to benefit employees,” said UMass Lowell Bioengineering Prof. Laura Punnett, who co-directs the center with William Shaw, associate professor and division chief for UConn’s Division of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has put a spotlight on what occupational health scientists have been saying for decades – that worker health is about more than what happens on the job. Our center is on the forefront for developing and disseminating the knowledge needed to build professionals’ competencies in Total Worker Health approaches so they can effectively protect and promote health of workers in all job sectors,” Nobrega said.
Along with this Center of Excellence at UMass Lowell and the University of Connecticut, other NIOSH-supported TWH Centers are located in California, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon and Utah.
UMass Lowell is a national research university located on a high-energy campus in the heart of a global community. The university offers its students bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in business, education, engineering, fine arts, health, humanities, sciences and social sciences. UMass Lowell delivers high-quality educational programs, vigorous hands-on learning and personal attention from leading faculty and staff, all of which prepare graduates to be leaders in their communities and around the globe. www.uml.edu
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