Spotlight Series: Workers' Health

PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centre Spotlight Series 

Reference Number: CAN-43

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC for Occupational Health and Safety
Institution: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS)

Reference Number: CAN-89

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC on Occupational and Environmental Cancer
Institution: Occupational Cancer Research Center (OCRC), Cancer Care Ontario

Reference Number: COR-8

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC for Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology and Toxicology
Institution: Central American Institute for Studies on Toxic Substances (IRET), National University

Reference Number: USA-260

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC for Occupational and Environmental Health
Institution: Great Lakes Center for Occupational & Environmental Safety & Health, School of Public Health, University of Illinois at Chicago

Reference Number: COL-24

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC in Occupational Health
Institution: Occupational Health Program, El Bosque University

Reference Number: CAN-79*

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC on Occupational Health
Institution: Scientific Division, Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST)

Reference Number: CAN-96

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC for Occupational and Environmental Health
Institution: Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Wellbeing, Health, Society and Environment (CINBIOSE), University of Québec in Montreal

Reference Number: GRA-1

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC on Environmental and Occupational Health
Institution: Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine, St. George’s University

Reference Number: USA-334

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC on Occupational Health
Institution: Occupational Health Program, University of Maryland - School of Medicine

Reference Number: USA-150*

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC for Occupational Health
Institution: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Reference Number: CAN-84

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC in Occupational and Environmental Health
Institution: The Global Health Research Program, School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia

Reference Number: CHI-10

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC for Occupational Health
Institution: Department of Occupational Health, Institute of Public Health

Reference Number: USA-183*

Official Title: PAHO/WHO CC in Occupational Health
Institution: Southwest Center for Occupational & Environmental Health, Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health, University of Texas (UTH)

Life Course

Category 3 (SP 14-19)

 Outcome 19 (SP 20-25)

Dr. Rodriguez-Guzman

Dr. Julietta Rodriguez-Guzman, Regional Advisor, Workers’ and Consumers’ Health, is the PAHO staff member who acts as the Region’s focal point and also has a supporting role to the WHO focal point to coordinate the collaboration between the institution and the Organization.   

To address workers’ health in the Region, and to contribute and collaborate for the implementation of the Plan of Action on Workers’ Health 2015-2025 approved by PAHO’s Directing Council in 2015, this network of CCs was organized in groups, aiming to address key topics including regional initiatives to: eradicate silicosis and asbestos-related-diseases, prevent occupational cancer, provide care for health workers, prevent Chronic Kidney Disease of non-Traditional Causes (CKDnt) in agricultural workers, promote workers’ health and wellbeing, address and improve registration of occupational diseases, strengthen workers’ surveillance and metrics, address inequalities and universal health coverage for the informal workforce, and consider the effects and impacts of climate change at work.    

The main activities carried out by these Centres include: (1) providing support and technical advice to PAHO/WHO; (2) providing support to address interventions during emergencies for PAHO and Member States; (3) providing technical input and creating guidelines, e-courses, and toolkits of interventions in environmental and occupational health and safety (OHS); (4) conducting research on innovative topics and emerging issues on environmental and occupational health and safety; (5) providing in-person and online training for healthcare workers and strengthening occupational health and safety teams in the Region; (6) providing technical support and guidance for preventing occupational cancer and developing national CAREX projects across the Region; (7) providing support and coordinating teams of CCs to develop regional initiatives for elimination of occupational diseases such as silicosis, asbestosis and musculo-skeletal diseases, mental health and workplace violence; (8) building indicators for workers’ health, employment conditions and inequities; and (9) participating in consortiums, webinars and regional meetings. 

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) collaborates with PAHO/WHO to maintain the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS INCHEM) tool. The tool is used to consolidate current, internationally peer-reviewed chemical safety-related publications and database records from international bodies for public access. The database had 742,664 visitors in 2018-2019 from 228 countries. In August 2019, the Centre replaced all 1,698 International Chemical Safety Cards (ICSCs), as well as added several Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) monographs and evaluations and 27 International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Summaries and Evaluations. This Centre also offers information to support PAHO/WHO actions to prevent, mitigate, and control outbreaks of several infectious and chronic diseases at the workplace, through online courses aiming to create awareness and training on certain topics, such as: the Flu and Infectious Disease Outbreaks portalViolence in the Workplace: Awareness course, and occupational and environmental cancer. Most are available in English and French, and some in Spanish, helping occupational and environmental health students and practitioners. To address other topics of interest and support PAHO/WHO’s technical work, the Centre has four portals available: health at work portal, the aging workers web portal, the young workers web portal and the healthy minds at work portal. As well, the Centre continues to host Guarding Minds at Work and developed a new assessment called the Psychologically Safe Leaders Assessment. It also publishes occupational safety and health fact sheets to disseminate key information for occupational health and safety around the world. In 2018-2019, 17 new fact sheets were added to the collection. This service is widely used and in 2018-2019 received 14,697,932 views from worldwide users.     

The Occupational Cancer Research Center (OCRC) at Cancer Care Ontario has developed a guideline jointly with PAHO and participants from the Region, focused on developing regional and national CARcinogen EXposure (CAREX) programs. They have also produced proportion exposed (PrE) values for individual occupational carcinogens in Canada which are published on the CAREX Canada website.  

The Regional Institute for Studies in Toxic Substances (IRET) at the National University of Costa Rica has assisted in building indicators for employment characterization including construction of formal, informal and precarious work indicators in Central America. The Centre also worked on the promotion and dissemination of ecosystem approaches to human health through Ekosanté and updating the online pesticide manual in Central America; a very important source of information for PAHO/WHO because it consolidates essential information about hazardous exposures for Central American inhabitants. The Centre also participated in the Childhood Leukemia International Consortium (CLIC), which pools information from studies all around the world related to childhood leukemia research and during the last two years, the Centre has been coordinating the Latin American Chapter of the International Society of Environmental Epidemiology (ISEE). The Centre also participated in activities to increase international collaboration for the exploration and research of Chronic Kidney Disease of non-Traditional Causes (CKDnT) and raise awareness within Central America and Mexico by planning regional workshops. 

The Great Lakes Center for Occupational & Environmental Safety & Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) led a core project for the GEOLibrary, a global clearing house for occupational and environmental training resources in English, Spanish and French. The Centre also hosted the Global Program in Occupational Health Practice with 154 individuals from 59 countries taking the 10-week online course. For environmental issues, the Centre has been working with other Collaborating Centres to assess the impact of climate change for the populations of Caribbean countries. For occupational health issues, the Centre provided on-line and in-campus training on occupational diseases, provided support and contributions for WHO in the integration of occupational diseases codes into ICD-11 and developed WHO and ILO global guides on methods for early diagnosis of occupational diseases.  

The Occupational Health Program at El Bosque University (UEB) implemented basic occupational health training in primary healthcare settings in local hospitals in Bogota and surrounding municipalities during 2016-2020, using the Health-WISE toolkit. The Centre is also working on a pilot study in two healthcare centers (Usaquen Hospital and El Bosque Clinic) to validate the Spanish translation of the WHO/ILO HealthWISE toolkit. This Centre is also contributing to the occupational cancer prevention initiative and trainings for the development of national CAREX projects in Latin American countries.   

The Institut de recherche Robert-Sauvé en santé et en sécurité du travail (IRSST) conducted several research projects including the exploratory evaluation of workers’ exposure to chemicals and assessment of the potential health risks through electronic waste recycling in Quebec. The Centre also worked on a report for the “Exposition des travailleurs québécois à des cancérogènes Industries et groupes professionnels (Workers’ exposures to industry carcinogens and professional groups in Quebec) published in June 2017. An English summary of this study is also available. Another project the Centre has been collaborating with other Collaborating Centres, is a pilot study focusing on the potential exposure to antineoplastic agents in hospital environments.

The Center for Interdisciplinary Research on Wellbeing, Health, Society and Environment (CINBIOSE) provided Eco-health training and capacity building by hosting an online training course module and produced three informative documents addressing the issues of work-family balance for men and women in precarious employment and created a mini-webinar series to disseminate the results.  

The Environmental and Occupational Health Division (SGU) at St. George’s University is the only Caribbean Collaborating Centre in occupational health and safety and environment. In partnership with other Collaborating Centres, the Centre is planning a training program on the HealthWISE toolkit to strengthen capacities for managers, administrators and healthcare workers in the health sector of Caribbean countries. In 2017, the Centre co-organized with PAHO a sub-regional workshop to train Caribbean countries on the development of national CAREX projects, that is expected to yield national CAREX projects in the Caribbean countries.  

The Occupational Health Program at the University of Maryland (UoM) has provided support on a national, regional and global level for the health sector, particularly to address the outbreaks of Ebola in Africa and other infectious diseases in the Americas. The Centre has been leading the assessment of the network of toxicology laboratories and supported the regional CAREX initiative for the Americas, by providing support for the training of the Caribbean countries in 2017 at the Third International Workshop for Building Capacity for National CAREX Projects in Grenada. The Centre has participated in a pilot environmental monitoring study (wipe sampling) in a Hazardous Drug (HD) admixture setting in Concepción, Chile.  A report was developed and handed out to participating managers to be shared and discussed with workers and a related manuscript was submitted to a peer-reviewed journal in late 2019. 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) of the Center for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC) has led the Global Network of WHO Collaborating Centres for Occupational Health by providing chairmanship to networking for the implementation of the Global Plan of action on Workers’ Health 2008-2017. From this activity, a book documenting the global network activities was published. The Centre also developed and contributed to review toolkits for prevention and control of occupational risks for health workers by collecting and assessing the effectiveness of tools (checklists, decision aids etc.). The Centre has also contributed to creating the GEOlibrary hub for effective tools and resources for protecting workers’ health and implementing ILO/WHO HealthWISE toolkits. As well, they have identified and validated tools for prevention and control of musculoskeletal disorders, violence and management of occupational health and safety in healthcare facilities in developing countries. Also, they support other Collaborating Centres to finalize training toolkits for prevention and control of occupational exposure to blood-borne pathogens and provide technical assistance as requested by PAHO/WHO to address occupational health and safety of responders in the preparedness and response to public health emergencies, including input to develop WHO manuals and training modules.  

The Global Health Research Program at UBC  has been leading the implementation of recommendations, procedures and specific trainings for the health sector. This includes evaluating approaches to implement the WHO-ILO-UNAIDS guidelines on HIV and TB and using HealthWISE in Southern Africa and Latin America. The Centre has completed several rounds of train-the-trainer activities using the toolkit in seven hospitals – three in Mozambique, two in Zimbabwe and two in South Africa. This has been led in coordination with the National Institute for Occupational Health in South Africa and the ILO offices in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. In Mozambique, the Centre is working with the ILO and the government and trainers on policies for the prevention, treatment and support of healthcare workers with tuberculosis. The Centre is also working to promote best practices in occupational health for healthcare workers. In South Africa, they developed an arts-based method for occupational health in the healthcare sector and published two articles in peer-reviewed journals focused on tuberculosis prevention, care and support and health workers addressing stigma against health care workers related to HIV. As well, they continue to develop, implement and evaluate participatory multi-stakeholder occupational and environment health capacity-building activities in the agricultural sector by conducting field work for banana producers and workers in Ecuador and on blueberry producers and workers in Canada.  Another key project they led, was the use of the Occupational Health and Safety Information System (OHASIS) they developed for use in South Africa across the Gauteng Department of Health, at the National Health Laboratory Service with analysis of its use currently underway.  

The Department of Occupational Health at the Chilean Institute of Public Health (ISP) led and coordinated the working group to advance the Regional Initiative for Eradication of Silicosis in the Americas. This group reviews policy options, good practices, delivers tools and promotes capacity building to implement the Initiative. The Centre has also helped build and publish the CAREX-Chile national project, which aims at characterizing and estimating exposures to carcinogens in the workplace, an essential first step for occupational cancer prevention programs. They also hosted a meeting to train the southern cone countries for building national CAREX projects, which was attended by Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Peru.   

The Health Science Center at University of Texas  Houston (UTH) is partnering with other Collaborating Centres to build the “Network of Experts on Working Conditions, Employment and Health Surveys” (Red de Expertos y Expertas en Encuestas de Condiciones de TrabajoEmpleo y Salud – Red ECoTES). The Centre has hosted short-term training in occupational medicine and basic occupational health for primary healthcare providers with a two-day workshop on national surveys of working conditions and health provided to researchers and public health officials. In addition, the Centre provides an online course on “Occupational Medicine for Primary Care Physicians,” with the purpose of strengthening capacity building at the local level. The two most recent offerings were from October 2018 – January 2019 and April–July 2019. From 2018-2019, the Centre has also been working collaboratively with the Centre in Grenada and PAHO to implement an English version of the National Survey of Working Conditions and Health. The Centre is now planning the implementation of the survey. The Centre also participated in a Eurofound/ILO publication focused on surveys dealing with national working conditions and has provided support to develop a report analyzing inequalities in workers’ health in Latin America. The first draft was presented at the Latin American Conference on Occupational Health in Antigua, Guatemala in 2017 and later published in 2018 by SALTRA. In addition, the Centre contributed to an article on proposed indicators for occupational health surveillance in Latin America and the Caribbean

Webnotes such as these serve to inform on how CCs are contributing to the Organization’s priorities and mandates.

*CC expired.