Healthier Workforce Center of the Midwest awarded renewed funding

Published on September 27, 2021

The Healthier Workforce Center of the Midwest, based at the University of Iowa, has received renewed funding from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to continue researching the evolving connections between work and health. The federal grant is expected to total more than $6 million over five years.

Directed by Diane Rohlman, professor of occupational and environmental health in the University of Iowa College of Public Health, the center focuses not only on changes at the individual worker level, but also policies and programs to change work climate and culture. The Healthier Workforce Center addresses emerging issues and high-risk, high-need populations in employers of all sizes in the predominately rural Federal Region VII (Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri). It is one of 10 NIOSH-funded Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health. The Total Worker Health® approach collectively addresses workplace hazards to create a safer and healthier workplace and reduces the impact of injury and illness on businesses and communities. 

“We are particularly excited that the Healthier Workforce Center has expanded its regional presence by partnering with researchers and practitioners to address the needs of employers and workers in our region,” says Rohlman.

The center is a regional collaboration among the University of Iowa, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Kansas Medical Center, WorkWell Kansas, and two NIOSH Total Worker Health Affiliates: the Nebraska Safety Council and the St. Louis Area Business Health Coalition.

The center has several research projects. One project, led by Beth Livingston, assistant professor in the University of Iowa Tippie College of Business, will develop and implement a training for supervisors to promote well-being among remote workers. Two projects are based at Washington University in St. Louis to address opioid use (Professor Ann Marie Dale) and mental health and suicide prevention (Professor Brad Evanoff) in the construction industry. The final project, led by Jessica Williams, associate professor at Penn State University, will examine organizational factors that impact the adoption of health and safety practices in rural nursing homes in the region. Additionally, Nate Fethke, associate professor at the University of Iowa, leads a pilot project program to address emerging workplace issues.

Best practices in Total Worker Health, including findings from the center’s research, are disseminated by the Center Outreach Core directed by Shelly Campo, University of Iowa associate professor and associate dean. Through strategic collaborations with partners in the region, the center will continue to develop free resources to aid employers in improving worker well-being.