Occupational Health Equity

People at work

Not all workers have the same risk of experiencing a work-related health problem, even when they have the same job. Occupational health inequities are avoidable differences in work-related disease incidence, mental illness, or morbidity and mortality that are closely linked with social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage such as work arrangements (e.g. contingent work), socio-demographic characteristics (e.g. age, sex, race, and class), and organizational factors (e.g. business size). The Occupational Health Equity program promotes research, outreach, and prevention activities that reduce health inequalities for workers who are at higher risk for occupational injury and illness as a result of social and economic structures historically linked to discrimination or exclusion.

Featured Items

Partnering to Educate English-Language Learners in Alaska on Worker Safety and Health
The Occupational Health Equity program partnered with the Anchorage Health Literacy Collaborative to educate adult English-language learners, many of whom are immigrants, on worker safety and health principles

Workplace Discriminationexternal icon
NIOSH provides national prevalence estimates of workplace discrimination and mistreatment from a community-based cohort of employed black and white men and women aged ≥48 years.

Low-wage Workers
A new study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that patient care aides, a low-wage workforce predominantly made up of women and racial/ethnic minorities, have limited access to healthcare and high prevalences of some adverse health outcomes.

Program Description

Not all workers have the same risk of experiencing a work-related health problem, even when they have the same job.  The Occupational Health Equity Program seeks to eliminate health inequities in morbidity and mortality that are closely linked with social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantage. Social and economic structures can lead to occupational health inequities in a variety of ways including the overrepresentation of workers from certain social groups in dangerous occupations, differential treatment on the job, and limiting access to resources that help protect workers on the job.

A central challenge of securing occupational health equity is that the same structures that contribute to higher injury and illness risks also operate within occupational safety and health institutions, organizations, and programs. As such, workers are not only at greater risk for injury at work but also can be excluded from institutional efforts to document and prevent workplace illness and injury. Occupational health organizations need to continue developing the internal capacity and institutional relationships to effectively work with these communities. The Occupational Health Equity program helps NIOSH and its partners build infrastructure and capacity to integrate an equity perspective into their current health protection and health promotion approaches.

Research Priorities

Occupational Health Equity research priorities in the NIOSH Strategic Plan for FYs 2019-2023 include:

Accomplishments

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

Impact Sheet
The Occupational Health Equity impact sheet, Use of Model Farmers Proves Effective in Increasing Safety Practices Among Navajo Agricultural Workers, briefly describes how a NIOSH funded agriculture safety and health center was able to use the “Model Farmer” dissemination project to educate farmers from the Navajo Nation on safe pesticide use, storage behaviors, and application technique.

To learn more

Overlapping vulnerabilities report
NIOSH and the American Society of Safety Professionals (ASSP) authored a report which explores how the combination of social and economic risk factors may result in overlapping vulnerabilities for workers such as young immigrants in small construction firms and discusses the implications for OSH professionals.

NIOSH Science Blog: Occupational Health Equity
The NIOSH Science Blog provides an opportunity to exchange ideas on various workplace safety and health topics with leading NIOSH researchers. The Occupational Health Equity program has written several posts.

Contact the Occupational Health Equity program at mflynn@cdc.gov

Featured Items
Front page of current study

Workplace Discriminationexternal icon
In the current study, we provide national prevalence estimates of workplace discrimination and mistreatment from a community-based cohort of employed black and white men and women aged ≥48 years.

Cover of Article

Low-wage Workers
A new study from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that patient care aides, a low-wage workforce predominantly made up of women and racial/ethnic minorities, have limited access to healthcare and high prevalences of some adverse health outcomes.

Front page of current study

Immigrant workers
A recent article in the Journal of Agromedicine examines Alaska’s high-risk seafood processing industry and makes recommendations for protecting these vulnerable workers, many of whom are foreign-born and experience language barriers.

Front page of current study

Employment Qualityexternal icon
The quality of employment is associated with general health, mental health, and occupational injury through material deprivation, employment-related stressors, and occupational hazard exposure in the US general population.

Page last reviewed: December 18, 2019