Healthcare and Social Assistance Program

Updated October 10, 2023

Older man having his blood pressure checked.

The Healthcare and Social Assistance Program’s mission is to eliminate occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities and improve health and well-being among those who work in industries providing human and veterinary healthcare and who provide social assistance services across a broad range of settings such as hospitals, clinics, nursing and private homes, and child day care.

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Safety Culture in Healthcare Settings
This training course provides science and evidence-based information for healthcare workers with a focus on six competencies. The course is designed to increase knowledge about work-related hazards and address organizational and personal strategies to promote a safe and healthful work environment.

NIOSH Health Worker Mental Health Initiative
The Health Worker Mental Health Initiative seeks to raise awareness of mental health issues, including the risk of suicide and substance use disorders, eliminate stigma and barriers to accessing care, and identify and improve data, screening tools, trainings, resources, and policies to address health worker mental health.

Draft NIOSH Healthcare Personal Protective Technology (PPT) Targets for 2020 to 2030
PPT plays an important role in protecting healthcare personnel. Reflecting on the nation’s past decade of experiences with infectious and non-infectious hazards, the NIOSH PPT Program has developed a strategic approach to PPT research, development, performance standards and test methods, and conformity assessment.


Over 20 million people are employed in private and public sector industries covered by the NIOSH Healthcare and Social Assistance (HCSA) program. These industries include ambulatory and home healthcare services, hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities, and social assistance. Because of the many parallels between human healthcare and animal healthcare, the HCSA program also includes veterinary medicine/animal care (VM/AC) industries and industries that employ laboratory animal care workers such as zoos and botanical gardens, and academic institutions, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and others. These industries include over 500,000 workers.

Workers employed in industries covered by the HCSA program are at risk for injuries and illness because of lifting and repetitive tasks, long hours, changing shifts, violence (by human or animal), stress and other mental health concerns, and exposure to infectious diseases and hazardous chemicals.

Research Priorities

The HCSA program has selected research priorities on the basis of burden, need, and impact and collaborated with other NIOSH research programs to write the research goals in the NIOSH Strategic Plan for FYs 2019-2024. The priority areas are:


Program Performance One-Pager
The HCSA Program Performance One-Pager (PPOP) offers a snapshot of the programs’ priorities, strategies used to make progress towards priorities, recent accomplishments, and upcoming work.

Program Review 2017
NIOSH understands that external expert review is one of the most valid and accepted methods of evaluating research programs. In 2017, the HCSA program underwent external review by an independent panel of experts. HCSA was assessed on relevance and impact of the program’s work in the areas of safe and healthy workplaces, musculoskeletal disorders, hazardous drugs and other chemicals, and infectious disease transmission. The program received a score of 8 out of 10 (4.5 for relevance and 3.5 for impact). More information, including the evidence package prepared by the program, the report written by the review panel and the program’s response to the panel’s report, are available on the Evaluation of NIOSH Programs page.

To learn more

Visit the healthcare workers page to learn more about the hazards healthcare workers face as well as specific resources for home healthcare and dentistry. The veterinary safety and health for more information on hazards for workers providing medical, surgical, preventive health or animal care services.

NORA Council
The HCSA Program helps lead the NORA Healthcare and Social Assistance Sector Council, which brings together individuals and organizations to share information, form partnerships, and promote adoption and dissemination of solutions that work. The council seeks to facilitate the most important research, understand the most effective intervention strategies, and learn how to implement those strategies to achieve sustained improvements in workplace practice. The final version of the research agenda for the NORA HCSA Council can be found here

Contact the HCSA Program
Contact with any questions about the HCSA Program.