OccHealthSci research areas

The Institute is dedicated to the health and safety of the workforce. Our mission is to improve the lives of workers through biomedical and occupational research. We promote health and prevent disease and disability among working Oregonians and their families during their employment years and through retirement. Our research areas include basic, clinical and applied research, in addition to our very active outreach and education team.

Basic Research

Chronic or acute occupational and environmental stressors within the workplace can significantly influence the quality of human health. These include, but are not necessarily limited to exposures to radiation, carcinogenic compounds, neurodegenerative-causing agents, obesogenic conditions and metabolic-, endocrine and reproductive-disrupting environments. Additionally, disruption of circadian rhythms can manifest in a variety of diseases, comparable to those initiated by chemical and radiation challenges. These can lead to sub-optimal health, decreased worker productivity and potentially debilitating long-term disease. Thus, the overarching goals of the Institute’s basic research goals are to identify factors that can harm human health and prevent, minimize and treat disease by understanding how these factors work. Learn more about our basic science faculty.

Clinical Research

Faculty in OccHealthSci study how work and stress affect the body and the mind. We categorize this as “clinical research” as we generally make measurements in human volunteers in a research laboratory or by using ambulatory techniques in the homes or work environments of the volunteers. This research aims to understand the physiological changes induced by both the physical demands and psychological stresses that are commonly experienced in many occupations. We study shift work, where we focus on understanding how the body clock regulates our physiology and how this system is disturbed by night shift work and affects health. Studies performed in volunteers staying in our clinical research laboratories over consecutive days include examining the effects of time of day on appetite, mood, cognitive function and the cardiovascular system. For instance, we are studying the cardiovascular changes across the day and night that are caused by the body clock and how these effects may be involved in the morning increase in adverse cardiovascular events, including heart attacks, stroke and sudden cardiac death. Learn more about our clinical research faculty.

Applied Research

The OccHealthSci faculty who conduct applied research are public health scientists grounded in organizational, social, behavioral and biomedical sciences. We partner with employers and labor and community-based organizations across many industries to identify hazards and needs and develop or evaluate workplace programs, policies and practices that impact occupational health and safety. Our work focuses on diverse occupational groups, including those in high-risk industries. We view work as a critical social determinant of health and commit to taking on a justice lens to examine the knowledge we value, the purpose of our work, our use of language, the ways we engage with our community and the partners that we serve. We are home to the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center (OHWC), one of ten NIOSH Centers of Excellence for Total Worker Health® funding by NIOSH. Learn more about our applied research faculty.

Education and Outreach

Aside from research, we are engaged in making our work accessible to practitioners and organizations who could benefit from implementing Total Worker Health-informed and research-based practices. Our work is closely informed by that of our regional stakeholders who help us understand the needs of workers across industries and with whom we partner to share our resources. We develop stakeholder partnerships and collaborative opportunities for moving Total Worker Health (TWH) based practices into action. We create educational opportunities geared toward building capacity for TWH research and practice, as well as disseminate educational and evidence-based resources that organizations can implement. Learn about our education and outreach activities within the Institute and OHWC.

OccHealthSci virtual town hall, April 2022

Thank you to our grant funders, partners and community members that support our ongoing efforts. A big thank you to our Senior Technology Analyst, Dan Austin for his hard work in updating these Institute research pages. We have included a few more links for you to learn more about OccHealthSci’s mission and research.