A Total Worker Health® project beyond borders

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Arline Ferrão reached out to Oregon Healthy Workforce Center a couple years ago regarding information on Total Worker Health® research. She was excited to discuss with someone on the other side of the world with an interest in improving workplace safety, health and well-being. She was particularly interested in developing a thesis for graduate school around workplace intervention design for small to medium sized businesses in Mozambique, Africa. Throughout the past two years, Arline has been very engaged in reaching out to ask for resources and feedback on her project.

Arline is a Mozambican social and organizational psychologist, who started her career in social and community projects and then into human resources. With her initial professional experiences, she figured out her passion was in occupational health and well-being. Arline wants to help promote quality of work-life and contribute to a world of work where people are healthy and fulfilled, organizations are prosperous, sustainable and positively impacted by the different systems in which they operate.

Arline has been consulting for a project promoting gender inclusion at work, conducted by a local NGO, called MUVA focused on promoting and supporting the economic empowerment of women and girls’ across Mozambique.

Apart from her interest in occupational health and well-being, Arline is an entrepreneur, having started an eco bags production company with a goal of expanding this endeavor to the occupational health and well-being field. Arline’s plans include exploring integrated approaches to occupational health and well-being and bringing them closer to African contexts.

Arline wanted to share her Master’s work project with us, as well as how her path crossed with ours during her research in Total Worker Health (TWH).

How did you learn about OHWC and Total Worker Health®?

“During my search for initiatives and organizations working around to occupational health and well-being, I came across the concept of TWH and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center. To understand more about the Center and development opportunities, I reached out to Helen Schuckers, who left the door opened for further engagement. Because my master’s work project was about TWH, before starting, I reached out to Helen again, who shared resources with me and encouraged me to write about it.”

Can you share a summary of the project? 

“Considering that the areas of health, safety and well-being strongly influence the results and sustainability of organizations, a medium-sized Mozambican company in the service provision sector was faced with the need to obtain an objective portrait of its situation and improve it for its own benefit and that of its employees. Thus, the project in reference aimed at the diagnosis and design of an intervention proposal for the health, safety, and well-being of the company.

It is worth mentioning that in Mozambique company classifications differ from that in the United States, such that according to the Mozambican Labour Law, companies are classified as small if they have up to 10 employees and as medium if they have between 10 and 100 employees. I understand that in the United States, a company with up to 250 employees can be considered small depending on the classification.

The project was based on the Total Worker Health® model and followed the phases of initiation, needs assessment and intervention proposal design. The initiation phase involved document analysis and meetings with the organization, which allowed the familiarization with the company and identification of its priorities. The needs assessment was done using a qualitative approach to data analysis, which collection was done through an organizational questionnaire – the Workplace Integrated Safety and Health Assessment, individual interviews and an organizational resources audit.

As a result, it was found: the need for an integrated preventive approach to the areas of health, safety and well-being; the lack of healthy and ergonomic policies and organizational and individual practices; and high work demands. In response, an intervention proposal was elaborated, which priorities are strengthening the leadership commitment, reducing the risk of strain and muscle injuries, reducing work overload and increasing employee’s resources. At the end, conclusions, recommendations and limitations of the work were presented.

For this work, a varied local and international resources and research were used, including material from the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and prominent researchers such as Glorian Sorensen and Karina Nielsen.

 Can you tell us more about your project?

“This project was a part of my Master’s final project. I conducted a work project with a medium organization in Mozambique, which topic was the TWH as a model of diagnosis and intervention: a case in an organization.

First, I conducted a diagnosis on the state of health, safety and well-being of the organization under a TWH perspective. To collect information, I used documental research, semi-structured individual interviews and lastly, a questionnaire, Lastly, the project included – the Workplace Integrated Safety and Health (WISH) assessment tool developed by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health – Center for Work, Health and Well-being – that measured the extent to which the organization implements policies, program and practices that focus on working conditions and organizational facilitators of worker safety, health and well-being.

After that, based on the results of the diagnosis and on the intervention suggestions of the employees, I designed an intervention proposal.

Anyone interested in learning more about this project and contributing to the understanding of how this approach could be further applied, is welcome to contact me via-email at arline.ferrao@gmail.com.”

How was your overall experience?

“It was good, very good. I really enjoy exploring the occupational health and well-being field. Also, fortunately the company was open and receptive to the work from the beginning, so it was an opportunity for me ‘firsthand’ to better understand the relationship between different individual and organizational factors in the workplace and its implication on both individuals and the organization. It reinforced my interest to work with it.”

What are you currently doing?

“I am currently working as an independent social and organizational psychologist and consultant. The first project I started collaborating with was one related to promoting gender inclusion in the workplace, which I am still doing. If we are talking about promoting well-being in the workplace, then inclusion is naturally a topic of the conversation. I am enjoying the opportunity to dig and delve into the relationship between health and wellbeing and diversity and inclusion, particularly when it comes to gender equity.”

We appreciate Arline for sharing her project with us. We have enjoyed learning about her TWH journey, as well as her thoughtfulness in incorporating the Total Worker Health® framework as a workplace safety, health and well-being practitioner. It is wonderful to see the global impact of TWH.

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