Tufts University receives federal grant to address occupational risks among immigrants

The Tufts University School of Engineering has received a four-year grant of $899,644 [100 percent of total project costs] from the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) to advance understanding of occupational health risks among a fast growing but vulnerable segment in the American workforce: immigrant workers.

The grant will fund intervention efforts in the city of Somerville, Mass., to be developed by researchers from Tufts' School of Engineering and Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, in concert with the Immigrant Service Providers Group (ISPG) and the Cambridge Health Alliance. Tufts will also collaborate with the Community Action Agency of Somerville (CAAS), the Haitian Coalition, the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH) and the Brazilian Women's Group.

"Immigrants have accounted for 82 percent of the growth of the labor force in Massachusetts since the mid 1980s. Somerville, which has seen the number of foreign-born residents grow by 34 percent in 10 years, is an important gateway for newcomers," explained Principal Investigator David M. Gute, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Tufts University and an epidemiologist.

"While many foreign-born workers have impressive skill sets, most arrive in this country because of war, natural disaster, or economic crisis and are often poor and lacking in formal education," he continued. "As a result, they live in the least desirable housing, have limited access to health care, work at the lowest paid jobs under the worst conditions, and are exposed to a disproportionate share of environmental hazards in their schools and homes."

Society's stake in addressing issues

Society has a strong stake in addressing these problems, according to Alex Pirie, coordinator of the ISPG. "Aside from the obvious human cost, there is also a cost to society when immigrant occupational health and environm

Contact: Kim Thurler
Tufts University

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