February 9, 2015
Researchers from six research universities across the country gathered in Chapel Hill, N.C., on Feb. 5 and 6 to launch the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Workplace Health Research Network (WHRN) and conduct health research focused on the work environment, where the majority of Americans spend most of their time.
The WHRN is a five-year project funded by the Prevention Research Center Program at the CDC to study how to improve the health and productivity of U.S. workers and enhance workplace policies and conditions that support health. The six members of the network will share $5 million in funding over the life of the project, with the UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP) serving as the coordinating center.
Laura Linnan, ScD, professor of health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and HPDP research fellow, will direct the coordinating center. Linnan is also director of the Carolina Collaborative for Research on Work and Health, a UNC-based organization that brings together interdisciplinary groups, the members of which collaborate on issues at the intersection of work, health and family life.
“With more than 65 percent of U.S. adults employed, we know that reaching individuals at work with evidence-based health-related programs and services is essential,” Linnan said. “The WHRN will focus on ways to promote these programs and consider ways that workplace conditions influence employee health. We are excited to work with CDC and our WHRN collaborators to advance a research agenda that will focus on improving worker and workplace health.”
Other members of the network include Johns Hopkins University (Ron Goetzel, PhD, and Enid Chung Roemer, PhD, PIs); New York University/City University of New York (Sherry Baron, MD, MPH, and Nadia Islam, PhD, PIs); ); University of Illinois at Chicago (Naoko Muramatsu, PhD, and Lisa Brosseau, ScD, PIs); University of Minnesota (Jean Abraham, PhD, and John Nyman, PhD, PIs); and University of Washington (Jeff Harris, MD, MPH, and Peggy Hannon, PhD, principal investigators). The researchers were joined by representatives from the Centers for Disease Control who oversee the CDC Workplace Health Program.
Institutions in the WHRN are part of the Prevention Research Center (PRC) network, which includes 26 members nationwide focused on preventive health. HPDP, which has been a PRC since 1986, is directed by Alice Ammerman, DrPH, professor of nutrition at the Gillings School.
“UNC has served as the coordinating center for several important CDC-funded thematic research networks,” Ammerman said. “It is great to see this new Workplace Health Research Network get underway.”
Gillings School faculty members Bonnie Rogers, DrPH, associate professor in the Public Health Leadership Program, and Steve Marshall, PhD, professor of epidemiology and director of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center, also serve as key personnel for the UNC coordinating center.