Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Grant Number T02-OH-008627, 2007 May; :1-10
The grant was designed to support the implementation of an interdisciplinary undergraduate minor that focused on cultural and behavioral aspects of occupational safety and health. This was a new program at The University of Hawaii at Hilo. There was a clear need for the training in OSH because previous academic programs in the state had been closed. An initial grant had supported the development of the program and curriculum. The program was designed to include faculty from a number of disciplines (psychology, chemistry, public health, nursing) and open to students in all academic disciplines. It involved close ties and coordination with community agencies and businesses, and the final capstone course required students to work in an agency or business as an OSH consultant/researcher. Overall, the goals of the program were achieved or exceeded. Although initial plans were for modest student numbers (2-3 in the beginning and increasing to 10), student interest was very strong. The program opened with 16 trainees (declared minor) and several other students in the courses. The number of students increased (21 second year, 17 third year). Further, the majority of students were from ethnic minority groups (Native American, Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, Asian American, African American). Community support was equally strong, and requests for student OSH teams from the capstone course exceeded the number of available teams. In the capstone course, students worked in a variety of settings ranging from examining safety and health issues surrounding range branding of cattle to safety procedures in a local hospital. Student evaluations of the courses and field experiences were very high, and several students were hired after graduation by local businesses to work in safety and health positions. Others chose to pursue graduate training in the field. This result is particularly gratifying given that the program was on the undergraduate level and only a minor, not an academic major. The success of the program demonstrated the value of including both behavioral and cultural issues in OSH training and the feasibility of undergraduate training in OSH. Despite its success, the program was closed by the university at the termination of the grant because of the inability to create a dedicated full-time faculty position to the program and other resource issues. This situation clearly speaks to the need to have solid institutional commitment and coordination in order to develop a sustainable program. In the final analysis, the program addressed a clear and present need among both students and community/business organizations. It was successful in bringing together faculty from a variety of disciplines, and proved attractive to students from a wide range of academic majors. It was especially interesting to note the attractiveness of the program to students from various minority groups.