We study the impact of our surroundings, both natural and built, on health.
The field of environmental and occupational health covers everything from the air we breathe and the water we drink to the injuries and mental health challenges we may face at work. We strive to improve health by promoting practices and policies that reduce harmful exposures and protect vulnerable populations. From improving worker health and safety, to promoting healthy housing, to creating new tools to monitor air and water quality, we work to make our homes, our workplaces, and our communities healthier places for all.
A graduate degree in environmental & occupational health prepares you to think critically about complex challenges and to design solutions that improve public health. When you leave one of our programs, you’ll be ready to address emerging environmental and workplace issues in a way that builds on science while prioritizing real people. Our graduates work in environmental health and safety, emergency management, environmental epidemiology, and workplace safety and health in private, nonprofit, and government organizations.
In the midst of a global pandemic, we understand that the coronavirus shows no partiality—it poses a threat to all peoples in all countries. The mission of our Center is similarly impartial. We stand to improve the health, safety and well-being of workers—meaning all workers, not just those within our city, state, or country. How do we use our expertise to promote worker health in the midst of the pandemic?
Our Center has partnered with one of the largest agribusinesses in Latin America, Pantaleon, since 2016. Our initial and guiding agreement has been to employ a Total Worker Health® approach within the company. In an effort to continually protect its workforce, Pantaleon recognizes the critical importance of its response to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Pantaleon has rapidly implemented COVID-19 symptom-based screening strategies at its mills, and as part of its larger protection strategy, the company requested support from our Center. Leaning on our expertise, we are helping Pantaleon establish COVID-19 testing-based screening strategies in conjunction with updated screening strategies at each of their operations in six countries (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and United States).
We have spent the last eight weeks in a collaborative effort to respond to the evolving circumstances of the pandemic and to minimize the risk of disease transmission among workers at Pantaleon, their families, and the communities where they live and work.
The bulk of our work has consisted of assessing and modifying the screening and testing protocols for workers in all six countries. “Despite the fact that Pantaleon is one single organization, everything it does in response to COVID-19 has to be specific to the location its addressing,” says Diana Jaramillo, Professional Research Assistant at the Center. “Many of the recommendations that they implement are dependent on the needs and circumstances of each country.”
Not only are the recommendations for COVID-19 response tailored to each location and its available resources, but the science and facts informing those recommendations are constantly changing. Thankfully our work with Pantaleon is more preparative as its staff is limited in the off-season. The company is taking this time to consult with our Center on strategic testing protocol as well as setting appropriate quarantine procedures for when the harvest begins and the full workforce returns in November.
“What we’re doing is very important,” says Diana. “We’re working with limited information about the virus, but more than anything, the information is changing daily. It’s like trying to solve a constantly changing puzzle.” As information about how to test for and treat COVID-19 continues to evolve, we do what our Center does best—translate the scientific information available to us into understandable and actionable information that employers can use to protect their workers.