Healthy Communities through Healthy Work


Healthy Communities through Healthy Work At a Glance

The Healthy Communities through Healthy Work team partners with local, regional, and national organizations to:

  • Identify and assess policies and initiatives that promote healthy work for those in precarious jobs and build upon and support existing and new strategies
  • Build intersectoral networks to further social change
  • Provide training and capacity building for organizations to identify pathways for healthy communities through healthy work

Healthy Communities through Healthy Work Activities


The Healthy Communities through Healthy Work (HCHW) initiative has undertaken a unique approach to address precarious work by changing the policies, systems, and environments that make it hard for those in low-wage, unbenefited, unprotected, and otherwise risky jobs. These structural changes will help shift perceptions and social norms of healthy work by addressing the causes and consequences of precarious employment.

In spring 2017, the HCHW project conducted an environmental scan: guided interviews with fifty-five national, state, and local organizations across from the public health, healthcare, nonprofit, labor, legal, research, and education sectors. Environmental scan questions addressed organizational perceptions of worker health: strengths, opportunities, challenges, and threats related to healthy work in the context of precarious work; existing business and employment networks that support worker health promotion and protection; policy-level proposals underway that might be leveraged to address precarious work; initiatives that promote skills and the knowledge base of workers to increase self-efficacy for healthy work; and, communication channels that exist for distribution and the two-way exchange of inquiry and information sharing.

From these conversations, the HCHW team catalogued over 230 partner initiatives that advance worker health. Analysis of interviews and initiatives indicate that while labor organizations often pursue public policy action to address issues of concern, public health and healthcare organizations are more likely to conduct trainings or develop internal business policies. Findings from the interviews highlighted public health and healthcare organizations’ limited knowledge and action surrounding precarious employment. Evidence also highlighted a lack of collaboration between health and labor organizations despite recognition that work is a key social determinant of health. Findings were used to develop the next phase of the project: an intersectoral capacity building initiative called the Healthy Work Collaborative to Map Action for Social Change (HWC).

Hosted at the UIC School of Public Health, the HWC invited public health and health care organizations to engage with labor, government, and non-profit organizations in a collaborative learning experience. Eight teams of multi-sectoral partners participated in the six-session exploratory process. Representatives from the labor sector provided technical assistance and facilitated training on Power Mapping, Theory of Change, and Action Planning to help these organizations define precarious work and build organizational capacity to create change. Through this process, the HWC teams:

  • Developed an understanding of precarious work and pathways to healthier work
  • Explored how policy, systems, and environmental changes can improve health in the context of precarious employment
  • Built intersectoral networks to further social change
  • Prepared deliverables, detailed work plans, and recommendations for initiatives

In fall 2018, the HWC teams began implementing the policy and systems change initiatives developed during the summer with funding and technical support from the Center for Healthy Work. At the end of this implementation phase, each team will produce case studies and dissemination projects, in addition to evaluation results, to help build the evidence for addressing precarious work. To support HWC teams in implementing their initiatives, HCHW provided a series of in-person and online trainings to continue to foster partnerships, and build knowledge and capacity to address precarious work.

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