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Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health

NAOSH Week & the SWCOEH – Research  

HOUSTON (May 6, 2022) – The Southwest Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (SWCOEH) at UTHealth Houston is celebrating North American Occupational Safety and Health Week (NAOSH Week), an annual observance held in the first full week of May to spread awareness about occupational safety and health and to bring in systems that ensure the safety and well-being of workers.

Today (Friday), we highlight the SWCOEH’s history of research.

Researchers at the SWCOEH have performed more than 15 years of safety and ergonomics research in the U.S. dairy industry. Researchers have conducted dairy parlor ergonomics research focused on the identification and prevention of work-related musculoskeletal disorders among large-herd dairy farm milkers. Researchers are currently developing, delivering and evaluating a safety leadership and management training intervention for dairy farm front-line supervisors.  

In August 2021, SWCOEH faculty co-authored an article studying Occupational Health Inequities in Central America. Drs. David Gimeno and George Delclos, co-authored the article, “Monitoring Self-Perceived Occupational Health Inequities in Central America, 2011-2018”, published by the American Journal of Public Health.

The article analyzed changes in occupational health inequity between 2011 and 2018 among a representative sample of over 20,000 workers in Central America. Data were collected by face-to-face interviews at the workers’ homes. The researchers estimated health inequity gaps by means of absolute and relative inequity indicators, and stratified all analyses by gender.

The article above is part of a larger research focus on Central America, which lacks systematic, reliable and accurate data on the prevalence, nature, and possible effects of working and labor conditions, including the prevalence of work-related and gender-based violence.

To fill some of these gaps, Dr. Gimeno has led the effort to conduct the Second Central American Working Conditions and Health Survey (II ECCTS for its Spanish acronym). This work was performed in collaboration with colleagues from Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona, Spain, and SALTRA (acronym in Spanish for “Health and Work”), a Central American network of research institutes and universities headquartered in Costa Rica at the Universidad Nacional. The project was conducted under a Cooperative Agreement between the USDOL Bureau of International Labor Affairs and UTHealth Houston School of Public Health, and co-sponsored by the USDOL Chief Evaluation Office.

Another area of research focus for the SWCOEH is the prevalence of occupational asthma in the United States. Certain occupational groups are affected more than others; among these are those working in healthcare industry. In 2003, the principal investigators of this study, Drs. Delclos and Gimeno, conducted a study, results of which indicated an increased prevalence of work-related asthma in Texas healthcare workers. They also found that certain cleaning agents in healthcare settings, especially those used to disinfect medical instruments and clean building surfaces, were associated with significantly increased asthma risk in selected groups, especially nurses.

Learn more about the SWCOEH and all that we offer, including our latest news.