This project aims to reduce negative health outcomes in small businesses that primarily employ high-risk Latino workers by characterizing their exposures to hazardous chemicals and assessing if a community health worker (CHW) intervention is effective at decreasing these exposures. Although preventable by definition, occupational disease and injuries are leading causes of death in the United States, with a disproportionate burden faced by Latinos. Small businesses pose a particular risk. They are more likely to employ low-wage Latino workers, and often use hazardous solvents including volatile organic chemicals that can cause asthma, cancer, cardiovascular, and neurological disease; yet their workers lack access to culturally and linguistically appropriate occupational health and pollution prevention information due to economic, physical, and social barriers. CHW-led interventions and outreach in Latino communities have documented increased access to health care and health education and reduced workplace exposures among farmworkers. CHWs are an innovative method to bridge the gap between these small business communities and other stakeholders. The proposed project will capitalize on established partnerships between the University of Arizona, the Sonora Environmental Research Institute, Inc. and the El Rio Community Health Center. A community-engaged research framework will be used to complete the following specific aims: 1) quantify and identify exposures to hazardous chemicals in the two high risk small business sectors common in our target area (i.e., auto repair shops and beauty salons); 2) work collaboratively with business owners, trade groups, workers and CHWs to design an industrial hygiene ? enhanced CHW intervention tailored for each small business sector; and 3) conduct a cluster randomized trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the CHW intervention at reducing workplace exposures to volatile organic compounds and assess which factors led to successful utilization of exposure control strategies in both male and female-dominated businesses. Businesses will be randomized to either an intervention or delayed intervention group, both of which will receive incentives to participate including worksite health screenings. CHWs will work closely with business owners and employees to select and implement exposure-strategies appropriate for their worksite using a menu of complementary strategies of varying complexity and cost. This innovative project has the potential to directly reduce occupational health disparities through a CHW intervention that moves beyond providing occupational health education. The intervention will overcome current barriers by helping marginalized Latino workers and small business owners who may have limited education, literacy, and computer skills to understand the hazards associated with their work, and will empower them to have greater control over their occupational exposures, with the ultimate goal of preventing occupational disease and reducing health disparities.

Public Health Relevance

Occupational exposures contribute to minority health disparities. This study will formally evaluate if a community health worker intervention can effectively reduce workplace exposures in marginalized small businesses to hazardous chemicals. Through face-to-face encounters, this study will increase the capacity of workers with limited education, literacy, and computer skills to understand workplace hazards and effective control options to reduce exposures and prevent occupational disease.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
Research Project (R01)
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Community Influences on Health Behavior Study Section (CIHB)
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O'Fallon, Liam
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University of Arizona
Schools of Public Health
United States
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