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Assessing and controlling occupational health risks to immigrant populations in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Gute DM; Goldman R; Goldstein-Gelb M; Galvão H; Vasquez I; Dalembert F; Hyatt DR; Desmarais AM; Woodin M
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, R25-OH-008776, 2011 Feb; :1-34
The Somerville Immigrant Worker Health Project was a collaborative effort lead by a community based organization, Immigrant Service Providers Group/Health (ISPG/H), a health care provider, Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA), and an academic partner, Tufts University, along with other partners representative of the community. These additional partners which included; the Haitian Coalition, Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS), Brazilian Women's Group and Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) worked together to address occupational health issues for the populations that they serve at the community level as well as to gather quantitative and qualitative information regarding immigrant occupational health. This work began in 2005 and ended in 2010. Two perspectives shaped the consideration of immigrant occupational health in this project. First, the knowledge that the number of immigrant residents working and living in Somerville is undercounted due to issues of immigrant and legal documentation. Second, the work reported here follows the Environmental Justice model in that we hold to the premise that the environmental and occupational risks borne by immigrant workers are disproportionally distributed in society. Together, these perspectives led us to attempt to reach further into the immigrant community in Somerville while bringing significant resources to the immigrant service agencies with whom we partnered. The grant partners were drawn almost entirely from Somerville's immigrant communities. Some members are employed as direct service providers at local not-for-profits, others either serve as head of or represent immigrant coalitions, and all have deep community ties. The stability of the participating agencies is an attribute we hope will contribute to the sustainability of the work we have begun together. This aspiration has been externally validated by successes achieved by individual partners in competing successfully for additional funding throughout the duration of our project and the participation of some partners in related external work such as a Workmen's Compensation Taskforce representing immigrant worker interests. The overriding accomplishment of this project is its contribution to and enhancement of the knowledge and capacity of the community partners in occupational health and safety, particularly as it affects immigrant workers. As our project was primarily focused on the development of capacity through education and the direct support of the activities of the community partners this increase in capacity was felt in many ways. Two of our most tangible successes are found in the conceptualization and implementation of the Teen Educator occupational health and safety program and the successful launch of the Vida Verde ("Green Life"), Co-Op. The collection of information from immigrant workers living and working in Somerville by the bi-lingual Teen Educators provided a means of illustrating the need for occupational health and safety services in Somerville. It also provided an opportunity for educating the children of recent immigrants about occupational health and safety concepts and practices. The launch of the Vida Verde Co-Operative (an environmentally conscious Co-Op of Brazilian immigrant housecleaners in Somerville) was also accomplished as a result of support from this grant. The Vida Verde Co-Op features the use of environmentally friendly ("green") cleaning products and a structure which supports and empowers its members. We believe that these completed tasks serve as worthy examples of our collective work to date. The participation of a subset of the Community Partners (ISPG/H, CAAS, Haitian Coalition and the Brazilian Women's Group) in a subsequent R01 NIH grant related to obesity prevention in new immigrants was enhanced by their experience with occupational safety and health concerns and lessons learned from our work together. They were able to add the nuanced, but significant, concern that simple activity as a measure included in metabolic balance was inadequate for the description of physical activity that involved repetitive stress and other work related injuries that could result in chronic conditions that would, in fact, impair future physical activity. This observation would not have been made had the community participants already not gained considerable knowledge about occupational safety and health through participation in this NIOSH grant.
Sociological-factors; Demographic-characteristics; Health-care; Occupational-health; Qualitative-analysis; Quantitative-analysis; Risk-factors; Workers; Worker-health; Education; Humans; Men; Women; Children; Safety-measures; Household-workers; Cleaning-compounds; Metabolism; Repetitive-work; Stress; Injuries; Chronic-exposure; Physical-fitness
David M. Gute, Ph.D., M.P.H., Civil and Environmental Engineering School of Engineering, Tufts University, 200 College Avenue, Anderson Hall (Room 310), Medford, MA 02155
Publication Date
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Final Grant Report
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
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Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts
Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division