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The Future of Total Worker Health® Training

minute read

Written by David Shapiro on October 26, 2022

The premise behind the Total Worker Health® approach is simple. Healthy workers make safer decisions and when workers are safe – both physically and psychologically – they are healthier overall. What is less clear are the ways we build capacity for TWH professionals working in the field and discovering what training and support they need.

Researchers from five Total Worker Health (TWH) Centers of Excellence provided guidance on TWH competencies for working professionals at the recent 3rd International Symposium to Advance TWH in Bethesda, MD, during their pre-conference workshop, “Academic Training Programs in TWH.”

Total Worker Health® training

The future for TWH training is bright, with a mix of professional and academic certificate programs gaining popularity throughout the US. Learn more about our 15-credit hour Certificate in Total Worker Health®.


Drawing on foundations laid out by Newman et. al in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine’s August 2020 article Education and Training to Build Capacity in Total Worker Health, the researchers aimed to further the discussion. The authors clearly described six TWH core competencies which include subject matter expertise; advocacy and engagement; program planning, implementation, and evaluation; communication and dissemination; leadership and management; and partnership building and coordination.

In the workshop, members of a collection of centers highlighted their different TWH training programs and distinctions between each which help serve different trainees and industries.


Leslie Hammer, PhD, co-director at Oregon Healthy Workforce Center, highlighted the historical connection between TWH and Occupational Health Psychology (OHP). Subject matter experts from OHP have been involved in the TWH discipline since its inception. The Northwest Region of the US is an example of partnership building and coordination as five universities have joined together to form the Cascadia Occupational and Environmental Health Academic Consortium (COEHAC) which is launching its first professional certificate in TWH this November through the University of Washington.


Christina Banks, PhD, from the California Labor Lab discussed the transdisciplinary nature of TWH. “TWH is really an umbrella concept, and a lot of professionals can all be covered by the TWH umbrella,” Banks said. The California Labor Lab aims to create a TWH certificate program that provides a “systems-based approach” for professionals in diverse fields such as occupational health and safety, architecture, occupational medicine, and occupational health psychology.


Meghan Davis, PhD, director of the new Johns Hopkins P.O.E. Total Worker Health® Center in Mental Health, is focused on workplace mental health and its connection to TWH. Davis explained that a TWH certification program from her center would be, “focused on the academic side of TWH.”


Liliana Tenney, DrPH, from the Center for Health, Work & Environment (CHWE) highlighted “a decade’s worth of work” leading up to the launch of the Colorado School of Public Health’s 15-credit hour Certificate in TWH in 2018. CHWE furthered the academic certificate by offering a professional academic certificate in TWH in 2020 for individuals who had previously completed some of the academic core competencies. CHWE will release a non-academic, practice-based professional program in TWH in 2022.

North Carolina

Laura Linnan, PhD, from the Carolina Center for Healthy Work Design and Worker Well-being at the University of North Carolina, detailed how their graduate certificate program in TWH mapped the original six competencies into three sequenced courses that make up the certificate program.

To streamline the diversity of TWH information, the Carolina Center focuses on (1) critical issues in worker health, safety, and well-being; (2) essential methods for evaluating worker and workplace health; and (3) planning, implementing, and evaluating TWH interventions. While the program was originally developed for in-person instruction only, the COVID pandemic accelerated UNC’s timeline to moving the program online.

Both the Carolina Center and CHWE's programs can connect public health students directly with employers during their training. “TWH is the icing on the cake for our public health students, helping them become organizational leaders in their individual disciplines,” Linnan said.

The future for TWH training is bright, with a mix of professional and academic certificate programs gaining popularity throughout the US. Workplaces can expect an influx of competent, credentialed TWH professionals in the years ahead focusing on the connection between health, safety, and overall well-being.