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U of U Health secures funding to establish new center of excellence for total worker health


The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) awarded funding to U of U Health to establish a new center of excellence for Total worker health® as part of its national initiative to improve well-being and safety at work through innovative collaborative work. The five-year grant will provide $ 7 million for the establishment and support of the Center and its research.

The Utah Center for the Promotion of Equity Research in the Workplace (U-POWER) reflects NIOSH’s long-standing commitment to examining and promoting workplace safety and well-being. Total worker health (TWH) centers such as U-POWER holistically examine work and the working environment to determine their impact on workers’ health and safety. U-POWER builds on this holistic approach by examining the role of power structures in working conditions.

The executives of Total worker health and the social determinants of health have led to a better understanding of how work influences health, safety and well-being at work, at home and in communities.

Rachael M. Jones, PhD, CIH, Associate Professor in the Division of Occupational and Environmental Health in the Department of Family and Preventive Medicine and PI Grant

“U-POWER builds on this understanding to explore how power is exercised across social, political and legal structures to create and maintain unequal access to safe and healthy work. We know this inequity exists because some workers experience a heavy burden of work-related illnesses and injuries, and some cannot support themselves and their loved ones because of their low wages.

U-POWER aims to create a community of practice that includes researchers and community partners, as well as academics and stakeholders from the University of Utah, the NIOSH TWH Program and Centers of Excellence, and others who share an interest in TWH. As Jones explains, “U-POWER investigators are united by a vision of work and workplaces that are safe, healthy and fair, and we look forward to building a community through which to realize that vision. “

The center includes a planning and evaluation core to support innovative research, an outreach core dedicated to community outreach and engagement, and a pilot project research program that will catalyze new research from emerging researchers. The center will support two individual research projects dedicated to engaging workers and workplaces in improving workplace safety as well as an examination of the role of power in fairness at work.

The grant also funds a sub-grant at Clemson University in South Carolina, with Angela Fraser, PhD, associate professor of nutrition, acting as the PI. Clemson will deploy a problem-based learning approach to improve environmental sanitation practices in long-term care facilities. “We believe that if workers are involved in delivering solutions, they are more likely to implement them,” says Fraser.

With the award, Utah joins four other newly awarded NIOSH TWH Centers of Excellence, increasing the number of TWH centers across the country from six to ten. TWH Centers of Excellence are the premier mechanism for occupational health research, placing Utah at the forefront of occupational safety research.


Utah University of Health


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