Category Archives: Work environment
The NewPublicHealth National Prevention Strategy series is underway, including interviews with Cabinet Secretaries and their National Prevention Council designees, exploring the impact of jobs, transportation and more on health. “Stable Jobs = Healthier Lives” tells a visual story on the role of employment in the health of our communities.
- Since 1977, the life expectancy of male workers retiring at age 65 has risen 6 years in the top half of the income distribution, but only 1.3 years in the bottom half.
- 12.3 million Americans were unemployed as of October 2012.
- Laid-off workers are 54% more likely to have fair or poor health, and 83% more likely to develop a stress-releated health condition.
- There are nearly 3 million nonfatal workplace injuries each year.
- The United States is one of the few developed nations without universal paid sick days.
View the full infographic below.
A review of 27 observational studies published between January 1950 and August 2011 finds that exercise may help improve survival for people with breast and colon cancer. The study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Read more on cancer.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has kicked off a national outreach initiative to educate workers and employers about the dangers of working outdoors in hot weather. The outreach effort builds on last year's campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of too much sun and heat.
Workers at risk include those on farms, construction workers, utility workers, baggage handlers, roofers, landscapers and anyone else who works outside. OSHA has developed heat illness educational materials in English and Spanish; a curriculum for workplace training; a dedicated website; and a free app that lets workers and supervisors monitor the heat index for a worksite. The app displays a risk level for workers based on the heat index, and worker safety information from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration heat alerts.
Read more on worker safety.
Johns Hopkins University has been awarded $15 million over the next five years from the National Institutes of Health to establish a new Center for AIDS Research. A major priority for the new center will be to address Baltimore’s HIV epidemic. A report by the Baltimore City Health Department released last year found that despite national advances in HIV prevention and treatment, Baltimore continues to be among the top 10 urban areas in the country in HIV incidence rates.
At the end of 2009, there were 13,048 people in Baltimore living with HIV/AIDS and HIV infections were being diagnosed at a rate of almost one and a half per day. A 2006 study showed that the lifetime expense of treating each new case of HIV in Baltimore costs about $355,000. That expense, according to the Health Department’s report, “puts a significant strain on evolving health care systems, especially in a city like Baltimore with a high poverty rate.”
Read more on HIV/AIDS.
Dozens of haunting photographs of Americans working at hazardous jobs are currently on display at the David J. Sencer Museum at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s main campus in Atlanta. Called The Quiet Sickness, the exhibit shows just some of the photographs of Americans at work by award-winning photojournalist Earl Dotter. The photographs are drawn from Dotter’s decades-long trove of photographs of workers in industries that can be hazardous, even deadly, including mining, fishing, agriculture and construction. Louise Shaw, the curator for the CDC exhibit, says Mr. Dotter has “put a human face on those who labor in dangerous and unhealthy conditions over a wide range of occupations across the United States. Collectively, [the photographs] make the case for protecting the health of all working people, as well as speak to the dignity and self-respect of the individual worker in America.” NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Earl Dotter about his work.
NewPublicHealth: What has been the main focus of your work during your career as a photojournalist?
Earl Dotter: In 1969 I volunteered to become a Vista volunteer, after attending the School of Visual Arts in New York City, and was stationed in the Cumberland Plateau region of Tennessee. That was a landmark year in coal mine safety and health because of the Farmington mine disaster which killed 78 miners, and resulted in the creation of the Mine Safety and Health Administration and the Occupational Health Safety Administration (OSHA). I was rubbing shoulders with coal miners who were sick with black lung disease, and in those days a coal miner was killed just about every other day. That, along with my art background, gave me an opportunity to begin what has become my life’s work. I started taking photographs during the war on poverty era and that time period was a formative one for me because I was getting to know coal miners and other subjects of my photography in a personal way. The pictures began to have a personal style to them. I was looking at individuals, not subjects. Real people I had come to know and that began to inform what I was doing in a personal way. When people view my images, I hope they can see themselves in those individuals. You may see common ground with someone who is seeking to become all they can be even if they have obstacles, or have not yet succeeded.
NPH: Why is it important to see ourselves?
Earl Dotter: If you can establish common ground, I think that can be a motivating force. It can give you the impetus to take a second look, to not pass by the images. And in that way these individuals who work to build our country command the attention of the viewer in a more personal way.
NPH: The Quiet Sickness has been exhibited before. What is that back story?
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Center for Construction Research and Training have launched a construction fall prevention campaign to reduce both fatal and non-fatal falls among workers at construction sites. Falls are the leading cause of work-related injury and deaths in construction.
In 2010 more than 10,000 construction workers were injured in falls, and another 255 workers were killed, with Latino workers the most likely to die as a result of a work-related fall.
News often focuses on high school drivers who use their cell phones while driving, but a new study of 5,000 California college students by the University of California/San Diego's Trauma Epidemiology and Injury Prevention Research Center finds many older students are also distracted by their phones while driving. Among the findings:
- 78 percent reported driving while using a cell phone (talking or texting)
- 50 percent said they send texts while driving on freeway
- 60 percent said they send texts while in stop and go traffic or in city streets
- 87 percent send texts while at traffic lights
- Only 12 percent said they never text, not even at a traffic light
“Distracted Driving is a highly prevalent behavior in college students who have misplaced confidence in their own driving skills and their ability to multitask,” said Linda Hill, MD, MPH, clinical professor in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and a lead author of the study. “Despite the known dangers, distracted driving has become an accepted behavior,” said Hill.
A new report by SafeKids, an international safety organization, finds that one in three U.S. children who play team sports suffers an injury severe enough to require medical treatment. The report also found that half of the injuries were preventable; parents often pressure coaches to put their injured kids back in the game; and coaches would like more training in injury prevention.
Standing while working has become a way-of-work for some of the NewPublicHealth staff, and most report that after a brief breaking in-period the foot aches give way to a more alert, healthier-feeling workday. So we were amused, and delighted, to see this recent essay on the merits and drawbacks of standing versus sitting all day in PARADE magazine by author A.J. Jacobs. The excerpt is from Jacobs’ new book, Drop Dead Healthy.
>>Weigh in: Were you standing or sitting while you read this post? Which would you rather be doing?
More and more businesses and employers are taking action to improve the health of their employees and communities at large. Recently, we spoke with Jeff Johnson, President of Johnson Machine Works, Inc., and Joy Schiller, Director of Wellness at Des Moines University, about why their organizations have made wellness a priority, from the perspective of two very different businesses—one big, one small; one academic, one industrial. Both are members of the Wellness Council of Iowa, a group of business leaders committed to creating healthier workplaces for employees.
NewPublicHealth: Why did your organization join the wellness movement?
Joy Schiller: There’s a real recognition that we as a health sciences university should be kind of a role model for the rest of the state and the nation. I tremendously appreciate as a wellness director that one of our goals is to provide education to our students and opportunities for wellness so our students on a personal level can see the benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. When they go out as health care practitioners, they will be more apt to reinforce to their patients the importance of healthy lifestyle habits and how critical it is to quality of life and preventing chronic health problems.
Jeff Johnson: Our business is a steel fabrication business. We’ve got skilled welders, cutters and fitters, engineering types, detailers and project managers. It’s a real rough-and-tumble kind of a business.
NewPublicHealth reported yesterday on a Congressional briefing to launch a new report, Healthier Americans for a Healthier Economy. The report showcases several states and cities that have found that better health for their citizens can also improve their bottom line, often in partnership with businesses and other community partners. NewPublicHealth spoke with Tom Mason, president of the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota, and one of the presenters at yesterday's briefing about the group’s efforts and preliminary outcomes in Minnesota.
NewPublicHealth: When did the Alliance for a Healthier Minnesota open for business?
Tom Mason: It began about two years ago. We started working with Target and Cargill and a couple of other early members about how to use competitions and information and entertainment to try to better engage employees regarding workplace wellness activities. Very sophisticated companies all are very aware of the return on investment at multiple levels regarding workplace wellness and prevention and overall well-being, but it’s not always easy to interest employees.
NPH: What background do you bring to the Alliance?
Employer and public health communities have a shared vision: better health and productivity for their employees and community members. Employers are now expanding their efforts from work site health promotion to community-wide health efforts, in partnership with public health and other community stakeholders, to ensure their employees and employees' families have access to an environment that makes the healthy choice the easy choice -- both during the work day and beyond.
NewPublicHealth spoke with Andrew Webber, President and CEO of the National Business Coalition on Health, and Jeff Levi, Ph.D., Executive Director for Trust for America’s Health, about the critical role of employers in community prevention efforts.
NewPublicHealth: Workplace is a critical venue for improving health. But what makes it important to involve businesses in community health efforts outside their walls?
Andrew Webber: In terms of optics at the community level, it says that improving community health is not just the responsibility of the traditional public health community. It is too broad a challenge for that. For us to be successful, we need every stakeholder group involved in making contributions. Each one of us in the community has both a responsibility and can benefit from population health. This is an agenda that we all share.
For the business community, it selfishly comes down to workforce health and productivity as being a business imperative, a competitive asset – something that is critical to the success of a business organization. We’re hoping more businesses understand that the health of their workforce is impacted by community dynamics. Yes, an employer can do a lot in terms of worksite wellness and health promotion programs with the eight hours of the day that they have individuals at work. But if those individuals then go home to unhealthy communities, violent communities, poor public school systems, no parks and recreational facilities, that’s going to have a huge influence on workforce health. And also, obviously, a huge influence on the talented labor pool you can draw on today and tomorrow.
Jeff Levi: The healthier the community, the healthier the people and employees within that community. Employers should help employees make healthy choices and can do so by providing incentives and other rewards for fitness and good health. To make a lasting impact, these steps must be reinforced where people live and spend time with their families, friends and neighbors. Access to parks, bike paths, safe walking routes, healthy foods, etc. provide positive ways to complete wellness and health-related efforts initiated in the workplace.
And for small employers, community prevention is even more important. They may not be able to fully develop workplace wellness programs, but through community-based prevention they too can achieve cost savings and increased productivity for their employees.
NPH: What are some of the challenges in collaborating between public health and business? How do we overcome them?