The DFCI studies represent an unusual opportunity for public health researchers to collaborate with partners in organized labor and industry. The grants will support studies examining smoking behaviors, smoking cessation, job hazards, and obesity for workers in cooperation with the Massachusetts statewide apprenticeship program for the building trades unions, and nationally with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the Motor Freight Carriers Association (MFCA).
Smoking Cessation with Trade Union Apprenticeship Programs
This study will build on a recently completed DFCI small-scale study conducted in collaboration with union-based building trades apprenticeship programs, that addressed the hazards of smoking behaviors in the context of job-related risks, such as exposure to toxic solvents that can increase health risks associated with smoking. The study confirmed that this population of workers is at very high risk of smoking in comparison to the general US population, and smoking quit rates look promising.
"The aim of our research is to collaborate with these unions, building on their own training programs in health and safety and strong sense of community, to study the effectiveness of a smoking cessation intervention for their apprentices," says the study's principal investigator DFCI's Elizabeth Barbeau, ScD, MPH and Assistant Professor at Harvard School of Public Health. "We will focus on the worker's knowledge and concern about the dual threat of occupational hazards and smoking."
This study extends the work of the Organized Labor Tobacco Control Network, created in 2001 by DFCI, with seed financial support from the American Legacy Foundation and led by Barbeau to create a partnership between labor unions and tobacco control groups to reduce the burden of tobacco use and exposure to secondhand smoke among working families.
The study, involving 16 apprenticeship programs, will include surveys to assess smoking behavior and related factors, a six-month smoking cessation intervention, and a follow-up survey to assess quit rates. The intervention will consist of a toxins and tobacco class that includes disaster related threats, quit groups, pharmacotherapy ('the patch'), do-it-yourself quit kits, environmental cues for smoking cessation, and written materials and quit groups for co-workers, friends, and family members.
"The Massachusetts AFL-CIO is delighted to be part of this important study with Dana-Farber. It will be of direct benefit to our new apprentices in the building trades, and sends an important message to working families that unions care about their health and well-being," says Robert Haynes, President, Massachusetts AFL-CIO.
Health Promotion for Mobile workers:
Addressing smoking cessation and obesity
In this study, DFCI will work in close collaboration with the Teamsters and MFCA to assess the effectiveness of a tailored telephone delivery program on tobacco use and weight management for motor freight workers, and will provide one of the first evidence-based health promotion programs for mobile workers. Previous research identified unions as a trusted source of information, making the participation of the Teamsters invaluable. This study also benefits from strong labor-management support, further illustrated by the MFCA, the national trade association representing unionized LTL carriers.
"Because of the mobile nature of this work, worksite health programs are generally inaccessible for these workers; in addition, transportation workers have among the highest smoking rates of any workers," says Glorian Sorensen, PhD, M.P.H., Director of Dana-Farber's Center for Community Based Research and the study's principal investigator. "Workers may use smoking to alleviate boredom, cope with stress and fatigue and to connect with fellow workers; overweight may be strongly tied to drivers' lack of physical activity and unhealthful food options available on the road. We will develop a program that responds to these concerns." The study will test a program that fits into their lives on the road, in terminals located in 10 Eastern states, and at home. This program includes telephone coaching being available evening and weekend and possibly counseling calls during drivers' breaks.
They will also examine workers' perception of what would motivate them to change health behaviors, how they gain self-efficacy and skills to attempt and succeed in changing behavior and their understanding and concerns about health risks of tobacco use, weight and occupational exposures.
"The health of our members is of the utmost importance," said Tyson Johnson, Teamsters Freight Division Director. "Smoking has ingrained itself into the truck driving culture but there is no reason why this can't be reversed. This program fits into the daily lives of truck drivers so it will be much easier for them to stay involved in the program. Anything the Teamsters Union can do to improve the lives of our members, we will do."
Timothy P. Lynch, President & CEO of MFCA added, "The DFCI research project will provide another opportunity for the MFCA member companies and the Teamsters to work together on issues that affect their workforce and their membership. The health of the Teamster workforce is a top priority for our companies and we look forward to working on a health promotion program that can only benefit the workforce."
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC), designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.