Assistant Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences
Major research areas
- Occupational determinants of health
- Health impacts of work-family interface
- Cancer prevention among low-income workers
- Theories and methods for community-based intervention research
- Health of workers in long-term care and other health care workplaces
- Impact of workplace injustice and other experiences related to social disadvantages (gender, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic position etc.) on health and health behaviors
Current research projects
- Integrated occupational health & health promotion interventions for construction workers
- Determinants of health behavior and occupational outcomes for nursing home workers in the Work, Family and Health Network intervention
- Occupational mobility and changes in health behavior over 20 years in the GAZEL cohort
- Left behind: Study of unemployment and smoking in US populations living with mental illness
Before joining the Harvard University faculty, Dr. Okechukwu (click for pronunciation) was a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the University of California- San Francisco and the University of California-Berkeley. She obtained a Doctorate of Science (ScD) from the Harvard School of Public Health and Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN) and Masters of Public Health (MPH) degrees from the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and the Bloomberg School of Public Health, respectively. She has a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Dr. Okechukwu currently investigates how work, home and neighborhood environments interact to shape the health and cancer prevention behaviors of vulnerable populations. Her primary focus is on working class and immigrant communities with an emphasis on women who earn low wages. She is also interested in global tobacco control, especially as it relates to tobacco industry practices in African countries.
Chief among Dr. Okechukwu’s research objectives is a desire to develop cutting-edge empirical findings that can be translated into promising population-wide interventions, thus reducing health disparities and promoting optimal health on a large scale. In her work to date, she has led or collaborated on numerous research projects, two of which were intervention studies that particularly epitomized her goals. One was designed to reduce workplace violence experienced by community health nurses, and the other was a randomized controlled trial of a comprehensive worksite-based smoking cessation intervention for blue-collar workers. In these studies, as in much of Dr. Okechukwu’s work, less-visible members of the working class are the beneficiaries of health interventions.
Dr. Okechukwu is on the internal advisory board of the Harvard Center for Work, Health and Wellbeing and the HSPH Maternal and Child Health/Children, Youth and Families(MCH/CYF), the advisory committee for the NCI Cancer Prevention Fellowship, and is a faculty member of the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies and the Harvard Women, Gender and Health interdisciplinary committee. She is also an investigator in the multidisciplinary Work, Family and Health Network. Dr. Okechukwu headed the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Workplace Injustice white paper team. The team presented their findings at the First National Conference on Eliminating Health and Safety Disparities at Work.