Conference promotes collaboration among workplace health and environmental experts

Prof. Pouran Faghri, left, and President Susan Herbst at the October 17 conference


Pouran Faghri, professor in the Department of Allied Health Sciences and director of the University of Connecticut Center for Environmental Health and Health Promotion, was the chair and organizer of an interdisciplinary conference on workplace health this past fall. The purpose of the conference was to provide a crossroads for health professionals, researchers, practitioners and educators to engage in the translation and dissemination of scientific information integrating health, workplace and the environment. The conference featured special talks, panel discussions and posters presenting the latest research across the entire field.

The conference took place on October 17, 2013, in the UConn Student Union ballroom and was co-sponsored by the Center for Environmental Health and Health Promotion, the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace and the Center for the Study of Culture, Health, and Human Development. The conference attracted more than 200 participants from academia and the insurance industry, medical educators, health specialists, policy makers, environmental and occupational health professionals, local health agency officials, general practitioners and nursing and allied health professionals as well as undergraduate and graduate students from different programs and universities. The conference included 47 presenters (featured speakers, panel discussants and poster and table presenters).

“We need to find a common framework that will bring straightforward rules and bottom-up approaches to promoting work site health programs. This conference was a successful start to talking points for future research and practice. We addressed societal, organization and environmental issues. especially as related to the challenges presented by an aging workforce. The conference brought together experts in the entire field in a lively exchange of ideas.”

              –Pouran Faghri

After introductory remarks by Faghri, University President Susan Herbst provided the opening remarks on the importance of workplace health and the environment of workplace and its impact on employees health. She then introduced the keynote speaker, John Howard, director of the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Dean Greg Weidemann was also in attendance and provided some remarks. In his keynote talk, Howard discussed the challenges and opportunities for workers health and related health economics. He noted that with the significant increases in the rate of chronic diseases and aging workforce, we must not overlook their health consequences and their economic impacts on our workforce.

Raz Cama, president of Cama Inc. and a UConn alumna, discussed the physical environment of the workplace and the importance of evidenced-based workplace design and workers health.  Michele Gelfand (professor at the University of Maryland, College Park) discussed the etiology and consequences of conflict cultures in organizations and the relationship between the individual, culture and organizational commitment, and considerations when proposing intervention for our diversified workforces.  Martin Cherniack  (professor of medicine at the UConn Health Center) discussed the problem of discrepancy between productivity and utility. The afternoon panel included Manuel Cifuentes, associate professor at UMass Lowell;  Mira Grice Sheff, assistant professor at the State University of New York; and David S. Weed, project director, Partners for a Healthier Community, Inc.  who discussed their research and introduced different approaches to employees’ health.The conference was a huge success and speakers provided excellent talks on issues that should be considered when addressing employees health from physical environment of health, to the culture and value system at the organization as well as aging workforce and related concerns.

By Nancy Weiss