UNC-Chapel Hill named NIOSH Center of Excellence for Total Worker Health®

September 20, 2021

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has funded 10 Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health®. NIOSH defines Total Worker Health as policies, programs and practices that integrate protection from work-related safety and health hazards with promotion of injury and illness prevention efforts to advance worker well-being.

Dr. Laura Linnan

Dr. Laura Linnan

The new Carolina Center of Excellence in Total Worker Health and Well-Being, located at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — along with new Centers in California, Maryland and Utah — will join six existing Centers in Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts and Oregon. The Centers of Excellence represent the extramural portfolio of Total Worker Health research that NIOSH funds to further its mission of protecting and advancing the safety, health and well-being of the diverse population of workers in the United States.

“We are thrilled to be part of the Center of Excellence in Total Worker Health network,” says Laura Linnan, ScD, principal investigator of the Carolina Center, professor of health behavior, and senior associate dean for Academic and Student Affairs at the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, where the Center has its home.

Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody

Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody

Dr. Marianne Baernholdt

Dr. Marianne Baernholdt

Dr. Eric Ryan

Dr. Eric Ryan

“We spent nearly six months bringing interested collaborators together to plan for and submit this proposal,” Linnan adds. “We have been funded to complete two important research projects: one with firefighters led by Dr. Eric Ryan in the UNC Department of Exercise Science and Sports, and a second study with nurses and physicians in the UNC Health Care system to address mental health and well-being in the context of COVID, which is co-led by Dr. Marianne Baernholdt at UNC’s School of Nursing and Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody at the UNC School of Medicine.”

Dr. Leena Nylander-French

Dr. Leena Nylander-French

Dr. Shawn Kneipp

Dr. Shawn Kneipp

The Carolina Center also will offer competitive pilot project funding to address emerging issues in the future of work and worker health through a program co-led by Leena Nylander-French, PhD, CIH, professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the Gillings School of Global Public Health, and Shawn Kneipp, PhD, RN, ANP, APHN-BC, FAANP, the Sarah Frances Russell Distinguished Term Professor at UNC’s School of Nursing.

Maija Leff

Maija Leff

Dr. John Staley

Dr. John Staley

Dr. Alice Ammerman

Dr. Alice Ammerman

In addition, the Center will support an Outreach Core that will provide a wide array of educational opportunities to support worker health led by Alice Ammerman, DrPH, Mildred Kaufman Distinguished Professor of nutrition, and John Staley, PhD, adjunct assistant professor of health policy and management, both at the Gillings School of Global Public Health. Maija Leff, MPH, is the associate director of the Carolina Center, co-teaches in the Total Worker Health graduate certificate program and is key personnel in the Outreach Core.

Dr. Georgia Karuntzos

Dr. Georgia Karuntzos

Dr. Jules Payne

Dr. Jules Payne

Dr. Jeremy Bray

Dr. Jeremy Bray

The Planning and Evaluation Core will be led by Linnan and a team of collaborators from RTI International (Georgia Karuntzos, PhD, vice president of business development, and Jules Payne, PhD, research sociologist) and the Workplace Health Network at UNC-Greensboro (Jeremy Bray, PhD). Bray is the Jefferson-Pilot Excellence Professor of economics in the Bryan School of Business and Economics at UNC-Greensboro and will advise the Center on economic and business issues.

An External Steering Committee of national experts will meet regularly to advise and help guide the work of this Center.

Each Center in the network serves as a hub for Total Worker Health related research and practice that builds the scientific evidence base necessary to promote the health of workers, create healthy workplaces, and accelerate the emerging field in developing new solutions for complex occupational safety and health problems.

With five years of funding, the overall mission of the new Carolina Center for Total Worker Health and Well-being is to support the NIOSH goal of protecting and advancing the safety, health and well-being of the diverse population of workers in the U.S.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed the very nature of work — and the work environment — change drastically,” Linnan says. “Essential workers, like the firefighters and health care workers we will study, have been on the front lines of the pandemic and these work-related changes. We believe the Carolina Center for Total Worker Health and Well-Being is positioned to serve as a catalyst for conducting important research and translating results into practice and policy-based changes that support worker health in North Carolina, the southeast region of the United States and nationally in the years to come.”


The original version of this article was published online by NIOSH and contains additional information on the other Centers of Excellence. For more information about Total Worker Health, visit cdc.gov/niosh/TWH.

The Funding Opportunity Announcement for the Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health can be found at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PAR-20-297.html.

Total Worker Health® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

NIOSH is the federal institute that conducts research and makes recommendations for preventing work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths. Find more information about NIOSH at www.cdc.gov/niosh.


Contact the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@unc.edu.

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