A $5 million, five-year federal grant has been awarded to the Health Center and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell to promote a safer, healthier workplace.
The award will create a Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace, one of two in the country.
The new center will include researchers from the Health Center and the Storrs campus, as well as UMass-Lowell.
"The center will systematically evaluate different approaches to workplace health and safety and personal health to determine which interventions work best," says Dr. Martin Cherniack, director of the Ergonomic Technology Center.
"We want to be able to measure success by real, observable improvements in employees' health and wellness."
Cherniack is co-principal investigator for the grant, with Laura Punnett, a professor of work environment at UMass-Lowell.
The center will sponsor regional projects that cut across both public and private sectors, with collaboration not only between the
two universities, but also with the departments of health in the two states, and health care and insurance corporations.
Two major five-year studies will be funded. One, that is already underway largely under the direction of UMass-Lowell, will evaluate the effectiveness of ergonomically designed patient-lifting devices in more than 200 nursing homes owned by Genesis HealthCare Corp. and insured by Liberty Mutual.
All the participating nursing home sites will be equipped with patient-lifting devices. Some sites will have devices with a basic, health promotion program and some will have devices with a more comprehensive, participatory health program.
The second project, largely under the direction of the UConn Health Center, will compare a
traditional, employer-controlled health promotion/workplace intervention program with an experimental program controlled by employees.
| Dr. Martin Cherniack, left, with Jeffrey Dussetschleger, a clinical research assistant. Cherniack, is co-principal investigator on a federal grant that will establish a new Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace.
|Photo by Peter Morenus
It will be conducted in corporate facilities insured by St. Paul Travelers.
"Typically, health programs are structured by employers and made available to employees," says Cherniack.
"Our project will help employees and employers work together to establish a new workplace health program at some sites. Then we will compare the two kinds of programs, structured and participatory, for rates of participation and measurable improvements in health.
"Private sector enthusiasm for these research projects and the willingness to involve employees reflects the awareness of an aging workforce, global trade pressures, and rising healthcare costs," he adds.
The project will include a look at different aspects of musculoskeletal health and mental health.
The two universities have a long history of collaboration in occupational and behavioral health.
"This is an ambitious undertaking that we approach with confidence because of the long-term relationships that already exist," says Cherniack.
Punnett, co-principal investigator for the grant, says, "The grant will permit us to take a much broader and more inclusive approach to promoting health and preventing disease and injury."