New research team launches to combat the effects of climate change on workers and communities

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The Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH) and the Colorado Consortium on Climate Change and Human Health have launched the Climate, Work & Health Initiative (CWHI). CWHI is an interdisciplinary team of expert researchers, scientists, doctors, and public health professionals dedicated to combating the effects of climate change on vulnerable populations.

CWHI’s approach to this dedication is four-fold; consisting of education, research, policy, and public health practice. Founding members include Dr. Katherine James, Dr. Lee Newman, Dr. Cecilia Sorensen, Miranda Dally, Dr. Jaime Butler-Dawson, Diana Jaramillo, Lyndsay Krisher, and Francesca Macaluso. The team will rely on its own expertise and also lean on its existing relationships with academic, industry and community partners.

Over the past four years, the Center for Health, Work & Environment has partnered with a multinational agribusiness headquartered in Latin America to better understand the health risks related to climate that agricultural workers face. To reduce the impacts of heat stress and work-related injuries, they have collaborated with industry partners to implement hydration and rest strategies to improve the health, safety, and well-being of workers.

Dr. James, director of CWHI and one of the founding members, is an epidemiologist and engineer from the ColoradoSPH who specializes in environmental and climate health in vulnerable and socially disadvantaged populations. Dr. James brings her wealth of experience leading research projects evaluating how environmental and climate exposures can adversely affect human and population health and how to translate and implement evidence-based programs to improve health especially in rural communities, children, and agriculture workers.

“We are already witnessing the alarming consequences of climate on worker populations who represent both vulnerable and socially disadvantaged groups,” says Dr. James. “These consequences are seen in families, households, and communities. As scientists and advocates, our time is now to bridge the gap between climate research and action.”

“Forming this group is an important step towards protecting worker health in a changing climate,” says Dr. Elizabeth Carlton, co-director of the Colorado Consortium on Climate Change and Human Health. The Consortium draws together experts in public health, medicine, climate science and implementation science across the University of Colorado campuses working to address the health impacts of climate change. “This initiative couldn’t come at a more crucial time,” adds Consortium co-director Dr. James Crooks. “Outdoor workers are already affected by wildfires and rising temperatures, and these impacts are almost certainly going to increase. They need and deserve protection against further harm.”

“Through our work, we discovered that workers are often left out of the conversation about how climate can impact their health,” says Dally. “Individual, work, environmental, and societal factors all play a significant role in determining the effect of climate on the health and well-being of workers and their communities. The combination of these factors led us to apply a Total Worker Health® approach to this public health crisis, that is, climate change.”

“Workers are disproportionally exposed to climate-related health threats,” adds Dr. Butler-Dawson who has helped lead the team’s field research in Guatemala over the past four years. “The question remains, how can employers and employees mitigate these threats? Through CWHI, we will engage with workplaces, workers, and communities to mitigate the negative health impacts of climate change.”

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About the Center for Health, Work and Environment

The Center for Health, Work and Environment (CHWE) at the Colorado School of Public Health is one of six Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health® and houses the Mountain & Plains Education and Research Center, one of 18 centers of its kind supported by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Main offices for the Center are located at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora, Colorado. The Center team works with faculty, students, and community partners on numerous projects in occupational and environmental health, safety, and well-being.

About the Colorado School of Public Health

The Colorado School of Public Health is the first and only accredited school of public health in the Rocky Mountain Region, attracting top tier faculty and students from across the country, and providing a vital contribution towards ensuring our region’s health and well-being. Collaboratively formed in 2008 by the University of Colorado, Colorado State University, and the University of Northern Colorado, the Colorado School of Public Health provides training, innovative research and community service to actively address public health issues including chronic disease, access to health care, environmental threats, emerging infectious diseases, and costly injuries. Learn more and follow Colorado SPH’s updates on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Media Contact
Laura Veith
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