Workplaces can play a large role in improving worker health, resulting in improved community health. But, how can workplaces and communities interact to influence the overall health of workers? Can workers in precarious work arrangements, often characterized by low wages and few or no benefits, rely on their communities to help them in protecting and promoting safer and healthier work? How can communities help their residents create opportunities for healthier work?

Using the holistic Total Worker Health® (TWH) concept, which acknowledges risk factors related to work that contribute to health problems previously considered unrelated to work, NIOSH-supported researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago School of Public health are exploring how to implement safer and healthier approaches to work that extend into the community. They are engaging with local neighborhoods, especially those with residents in precarious work, to find ways to improve worker health at the community level. To identify what works, they are using a community health survey, focus groups, interviews, and an approach called concept mapping. This approach creates a visual representation of participants’ thoughts about and priorities between health and work.

By engaging directly with communities and the workers within them, researchers can continue to raise awareness of the relationship between communities, work, and health, as well as develop new TWH interventions. As the project continues, the next step will include intervention mapping, which plots evidenced-based interventions to specific community needs.

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