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September 22, 2021
NIOSH adds four Total Worker Health program centers

On September 16, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) announced the addition of four new Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health (TWH). New Centers of Excellence in California, Maryland, North Carolina, and Utah now join the program’s six existing centers in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, and Oregon.

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NIOSH’s TWH approach combines worker health and safety protection with other aspects of workplace wellness. The institute describes TWH as a holistic approach to worker well-being and includes policies, practices, and programs that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with the promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts.

The four new centers in the program are:

  • California Labor Laboratory (CALL) at the University of California, San Francisco, dedicated to describing and improving the health impacts of emergent working conditions—alternative work arrangements, contingent forms of employment, the decreasing quality of work, and the link between such emergent work conditions and health outcomes—with a focus on the construction; healthcare and social assistance; manufacturing; oil and gas extraction; public safety; services; and transportation, warehousing, and utilities sectors.
  • Carolina Center for Total Worker Health and Well-Being at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, dedicated to helping advance NIOSH’s goal of protecting and advancing the health, safety, and well-being of the diverse population of workers in our nation. The center will serve essential workers and other groups placed at higher risk of negative workplace health and well-being outcomes.
  • Johns Hopkins Psychosocial, Organizational, and Environmental (POE) Total Worker Health Center in Mental Health (POE Center) in Baltimore, the first TWH Center dedicated exclusively to improving the mental health of the nation’s workforce. The POE Center is responsible for promoting worker mental health and well-being through research, education, outreach, and evaluation activities that integrate the psychosocial, organizational, and environmental contexts of worker health.
  • Utah Center for Promotion of Work Equity (U-POWER) in Salt Lake City, dedicated to seeking a better understanding of the role of power in defining work conditions that may create and sustain inequity and ill health among workers and finding solutions to address these challenges.

The centers perform TWH-related research, building the scientific evidence base necessary to develop new solutions for complex occupational safety and health problems and disseminating those evidence-based practices.

“The expansion of the Centers and their expanding regional presence will help us learn more about the important connections between work and health, which is vital for employers to build and retain a safer and more productive workforce,” NIOSH Director John Howard, MD, said in a statement.

The six existing centers are:

  • The Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health;
  • The Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (CPH-NEW), a collaboration between the University of Connecticut and the University of Massachusetts Lowell;
  • The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health Center for Work, Health, and Well-Being;
  • The Healthier Workforce Center of the Midwest, a regional collaboration among the University of Iowa, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Kansas Medical Center, WorkWell Kansas, the Nebraska Safety Council, and the St. Louis Area Business Health Coalition;
  • The Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHWC) at Oregon Health & Science University; and
  • The University of Illinois at Chicago Center for Healthy Work (UIC CHW).

TWH’s priorities include the future of work, healthy work design and worker well-being, mental health, and opioid and substance abuse issues in the workplace. Relevant issues for the program include contingent work and other alternative work arrangements, an aging workforce and multigenerational workplaces, and adequate breaks and work intensification prevention.

TWH also includes activities focused on compensation and benefits issues such as adequate wages and the prevention of wage theft, affordable health care and prevention of healthcare cost-shifting to workers, and equitable pay and minimum guaranteed hours.

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