<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=799546403794687&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
Person's hands holding plant in ground

A First-of-its-Kind Training Program for Doctoral Students Focused on Climate and Worker Safety & Health

minute read

The Center for Health, Work & Environment at the Colorado School of Public Health (ColoradoSPH) will soon be training researchers to address the impact of climate change on the health of workers. It’s newly established training program for doctoral students, Targeted Research Training Program in Climate and Worker Safety and Health, is the first of its kind in the United States.  

Supported by the CDC and its National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the new program will train future research and policy leaders in occupational safety and health. The program will begin accepting PhD, DrPH and other doctoral students from the University of Colorado (CU) and Colorado State University (CSU) in August 2023.

Under the direction of Center director and CU Distinguished Professor Lee Newman, MD, MA, the new program will bring together expert faculty from the CU Anschutz Medical Campus and CSU to equip students entering a world increasingly impacted by climate change.

“Workers are the climate canaries – they are on the front lines of climate change-related health and safety risks,” said Newman. “Whether we look at heat stress, heat-induced job injuries, respiratory and cardiovascular disease worsened by emergency response efforts to wildfires, or cancers from exposure to solar (UV) radiation, workers are smacked by the blunt force impacts of climate change. This program will train a new generation of climate change scientists and policy leaders equipped to seek and test solutions to mitigate the complex dangers that our changing climate imposes on the health of working people and their families.”

The two-year program will be led by more than 20 members of the faculty from the ColoradoSPH, CU School of Medicine, CU Boulder, and CSU. Newman is joined by Kathy James, PhD, MSPH, MSCE, associate professor at the ColoradoSPH, and Sheryl Magzamen, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the ColoradoSPH and CSU, to lead the program under the Mountain & Plains Education and Research Center (MAP ERC).

“Climate change will undoubtedly impact the future of work because the adverse health impacts of climate change are occurring in the here and now. This program continues the long history of understanding that environmental health impacts disease through inquiry into worker health and well-being,” said Magzamen.

This new program, in a new field of study, will capitalize on the breadth of expertise of the faculty who are eager to cross traditional disciplinary lines to find solutions. This includes climate scientists, epidemiologists, statisticians, occupational safety and health experts, psychologists, public health professionals, laboratory researchers, among others. 

“A new generation of leaders who can address climate’s impact on workers will need to be skilled in conducting team science and have the ability to integrate knowledge from many disciplines,” said Newman. "This interdisciplinary educational opportunity leverages the combined research and professional strengths of the CU and CSU, where members of our faculty are already conducting research including studies of wildfire-related air pollution, impact of heat extremes on job injuries, effects of heat and toxins on kidney disease in Latin America, and the effect of drought on the mental health of workers in rural communities like the San Luis Valley, among many other research targets.”

The MAP ERC, established in 2007, is one of 18 NIOSH-funded Education and Research Centers that train occupational safety and health professionals, conduct relevant research, promote career development, and offer continuing educational opportunities that focus on improving the health, safety, well-being and productivity of the American workforce. The long-term goal of the new MAP ERC Targeted Research Training program is to improve worker safety and health and train future leaders who are prepared to help workers, employers, unions, and other stakeholders – especially those in the most severely impacted communities.

“As we, globally, realize more about the impact of climate and worker health, this TRT will meet the essential need to train interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners, to lead efforts to identify and mitigate the direct and indirect health impact of climate on workforces, especially those disparately impacted,” said James.

For more information about the program, please contact Lee Newman, MD, MA, Distinguished Professor and director of the Center for Health, Work & Environment; please copy Jennifer Foxcroft at Jennifer.Foxcroft@cuanschutz.edu on your email.