HSPH Occupational Injury Prevention
in Safety and Epidemiology
NIOSH Training Grant


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Degree & Curriculum

Degree | Curriculum

Need For Program:
Occupational injury is a large public health burden. Within the United States alone 5100 people lost their lives on the job due to an unintentional injury in 1998 (National Safety Council, 1999). That is a rate of 14 deaths per calendar day. In 1998, 3.8 million workers in America suffered a disabling injury. This estimate, while still small compared to a 1994 estimate of 6.3 million (NORA Committee, 1998), is still larger than 1% of the total US population. Cost estimates for occupational injuries in 1998 add up to $125 billion. This cost is well on par with the cost of treating other large public health diseases such as cancer and heart disease in U.S. (Leigh et al., 1997) and well above the profits of the top Fortune 500 companies. In 1996 the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) established the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), which identified traumatic injury as a research priority area.



The pre-doctoral program will offer the Doctor of Science (SD) degree in Occupational Health.

Program Goals and Objectives

1. To produce the next generation of qualified researchers with the multidisciplinary skills and experience necessary to design and conduct studies in order to understand the etiology and prevention of occupational injury.

2. To provide interdisciplinary-training for future researchers and professionals with traditional disciplinary backgrounds to expand the breadth and depth of their knowledge within in the public health framework. This approach emphasizes prevention through:

a. Identifying and evaluating risks for injury in the workplace,
b. Intervening and reducing risks with the development of administrative and engineering controls in the design of workplace environments, and
c. Managing and developing policies and programs to prevent workplace acute and chronic injuries as well as the rehabilitation and return to work of those injured.



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Training Approach: The program's unified training approach takes a holistic view of workplace hazards and focuses on the prevention of injury and illness associated with those hazards. The components of the approach include the identification, measurement and evaluation of occupational hazards; the study of the occurrence of work-related injury and illness; the design of organizational and engineering controls, and the development of management and surveillance systems. This multidisciplinary approach integrates the traditional engineering techniques to the assessment and control of occupational hazards with the occupational health and safety approach to prevention of injury and illness for a progressive modern program.

General description of requirements: Students will be expected to first master information and competencies in occupational injury prevention and control. The higher-level courses each relate different principles, methods and theories that are directly applicable to occupational injury prevention research and allow for the trainees to focus in either occupational injury epidemiology or occupational safety engineering and science. Training specialization will be achieved through occupational health, environmental science and engineering, health and social behavior and health policy and management courses that offer advanced teachings in safety engineering, ergonomics, biomechanics, behavioral epidemiology and health services research.

For the doctoral program, the proposed curriculum requires a minimum of two years of course work for the completion of 40 credit hours plus an additional two to three years to complete a research thesis. Students must also complete a written comprehensive examination at the end of their coursework that demonstrates their proficiency in the field. Upon completing their research they must produce three publishable papers based on their doctoral research.

The postdoctoral training program is a non-degree granting program and requires a minimum of two years. Trainees will be required to take all of the specialty injury prevention research courses (approximately 15 credits) and complete a research internship. The program will also require presentations in research seminars, occupational medicine grand rounds or class lectures, and peer reviewed publications.

Advisement/Mentorship: Students will be assigned to one of the core or supporting program faculty for advisement soon after admission to the program. Together with their advisor, a customized curriculum plan will be developed based on required courses and specific electives. Students will meet periodically with advisors for the following purposes: to review progress toward satisfactory completion of course work (including options for elective courses); to prepare for written exams, to develop research proposals, to access sources for data collection and management, and to review drafts of papers. Our experience with training in other occupational health specialty areas has emphasized that the student advisement/mentorship training component for both pre and postdoctoral students is critical to the success of the overall training program.

Curriculum content: Course requirements draw from several curriculum sources from within the School of Public Health, as well as M.I.T, and the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University. Core requirements will include requirements of the school and specific classes for injury prevention research. Pre-doctoral students will be required to complete a minimum of 40 credits. Twenty of these credits have to be in occupational injury prevention research with a focus on either occupational safety engineering and science or occupational injury epidemiology. The other twenty must contain 10 in each of two declared minors (e.g, Health Policy and Management or Health and Social Behavior).