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Exploring Occupational and Health Behavioral Causes of Obesity in Firefighters: A Qualitative Study

The following manuscript – the result of collaboration between CSE staff and consultants with University of California Irvine – was published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine “early view” on Jan 17, 2013.

Exploring occupational and health behavioral causes of firefighter obesity: A qualitative study

Marnie Dobson, Ph.D.1,2 BongKyoo Choi, Sc.D., MPHPeter L. Schnall, M.D., MPH 1,2 Erin Wigger, BA Javier Garcia, MALeslie Israel, DODean Baker, MD1

  1. (1) Center for Occupational and Environmental Health, University of California Irvine, USA
  2. (2) Center for Social Epidemiology, Los Angeles, CA


Background: Firefighters, as an occupational group, have one of the highest prevalence rates of obesity. A qualitative study investigated occupational and health behavioral determinants of obesity among firefighters.

Methods: Four focus groups were conducted with firefighters of every rank as Phase I of the FORWARD study which was designed to assess health behavioral and occupa- tional characteristics related to obesity in firefighters.

Results: Analysis revealed five main themes of central importance to firefighters: (1) fire station eating culture; (2) night calls and sleep interruption; (3) supervisor leadership and physical fitness; (4) sedentary work; and (5) age and generational influences.

Conclusion: The results showed a strong interrelationship between occupational and health behavioral causes of obesity in firefighters. The relevance of these qualitative findings are discussed along with the implications for future obesity interventions with firefighters. Am. J. Ind. Med. ” 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

KEY WORDS: obesity; firefighters; qualitative research; occupational health; health behaviors 

The full article can be downloaded here.

Work stress linked to heart attack risk in older men


Here  is a short article from Personnel Today (January 2013) which discusses the impact of job strain on the cardiovascular health of older male workers. The original article published in Occupational Medicine can be found here: Age, job characteristics and coronary health.

Work stress linked to heart attack risk in older men

Older men with stressful jobs and little power to make decisions are more likely to suffer with heart disease than their peers with less job strain, according to a study published in Occupational Medicine, the journal of the Society of Occupational Medicine.

The researchers from University College Cork found that older male workers who had had a heart attack or had unstable angina were four times as likely to have high job strain as those that did not.

Job strain, or the combination of high job demands and low control at work, has long been associated with coronary heart disease, but this latest research looked specifically at its effects in the older workforce.

Intriguingly, it found there was a clear difference between younger and older workers – the association was not found in younger people.

Lead author Vera McCarthy said: “This study is important as it provides information on older workers necessary to inform policy-makers, clinicians, OH physicians and employers.”

The society argued that as the UK’s working population ages, employers will need to make work more attractive and feasible for older workers, implementing changes that enable them to work up to and beyond state pension age.

To this end, investing in OH services will become increasingly important in keeping people economically active and helping to ensure that older workers remain healthy and fit, it added.

“Employers need to ensure that they are looking after the health of their older employees, making the necessary adjustments and being flexible about the jobs they do and their working practices,” said society president Dr Richard Heron.

Tips for working moms with higher stress hormones

By Laurie Tarkan

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/08/30/tips-for-working-moms-with-higher-stress-hormones/#ixzz259kiCtxj

It’s not just the mad rush to get the kids fed, dressed and out the door that can stress out a working mom.

If she also has a high level of work-related stress, it can add an extra level of tension to weekday mornings.

A new study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, found that working moms with high parenting stress tended to have higher levels of cortisol (indicating more stress) on weekday mornings than on weekends. Not a huge surprise. 

But the study also found that those women who reported high job strain and high parenting stress had significantly higher cortisol levels on workdays.

CSE Director, Peter Schnall to receive Jean Spencer Felton Award

Each year at the Western Occupational Health Conference (WOHC) a physician is honored for excellence in scientific writing. The award is presented to a member of the Western Occupational and Environmental Medical Association (WOEMA) who has contributed significantly to furthering the body of knowledge in the field of occupational and environmental medicine. 

Dr. Schnall is being presented with the award at the InterContinental Hotel in San Francisco, California on Friday, September 14, 2012 at 2:00 pm, during the WOEMA Annual Business Meeting.

For further information please visit the WOEMA website at: http://www.woema.org/awardjs.vp.html

Robots to Play Crucial Role in Foxconn Future Expansion

With pressure to produce still more coming from Apple and other end users and the company complaining of low profit margins, Foxconn has now sought to increase its production processes by means of robotics. According to Terry Gou, the company’s founder and chairman, Foxconn already makes use of some 10,000 robots and sees many benefits in expanding its use of robots. Gou plans to use the new robots to perform tasks such as spraying, welding and assembling. He projects that utilizing up to 1 million robots will improve the working conditions at his plant for Foxconn workers by eliminating those parts of the production process which are repetitive and menial, effectively elevating it’s workforce into positions with increased skill-level and value.

But will the modernization of Foxconn’s plants into a futuristic, automated factory actually mean better working conditions for China’s workers, or just a loss of jobs? Gou’s argument seems to favor the hypothesis of Skill Biased Technological Change (SBTC), which purports to positively favor a shift from an un-skilled labor force to skilled workers. SBTC has, however, become the center of debate on the unequal distribution of power in the workplace (management vs. workers) and the increasing inequality of wealth between social classes in Capitalist societies.

21 Workplace Benefits that are Rapidly Disappearing

Emily Brandon, On Friday July 22, 2011, 11:42 am EDT

Traditional pension plans, paid family leave, and even the company picnic are all on the decline. Employers have significantly cut many of the benefits they offer to workers over the past five years. Some 77 percent of companies report that benefits offerings have been negatively affected by the slow pace of recovery, according to a Society for Human Resource Management survey of 600 human resources professionals. “The two biggest areas where cuts have come have been in health care and retirement because that’s where costs have increased the most,” says Mark Schmit, research director of the Society for Human Resource Management in Alexandria, Va. Here is a look at the workplace perks that have significantly declined since 2007.

Eating less salt doesn’t cut heart risks: study I Reuters

Is nothing sacred? For 100 years now it has been gospel that salt plays an important role in the etiology of ESSENTIAL Hypertension, despite the fact that the evidence for the role of salt has always been contradictory (e.g., feeding people unlimited amounts of salt doesn’t increase bp as our bodies have enormous ability to excrete salt in the urine). This article provides further evidence that the role in sodium in the etiology and treatment of hypertension is even more problematic than previously thought.  The key sentence from below of their results  “participants with the lowest salt intake had the highest rate of death from heart disease during the follow up (4 percent), and people who ate the most salt had the lowest (less than 1 percent).”

Dr. Peter Schnall

New Work and Family Researchers Network

We wanted to be sure that you have heard about the new Work and Family Researchers Network (WFRN), formerly the Sloan Work and Family Research Network.  As you may know, the Sloan Network has been the premier online destination for work and family information for the past 14 years. In November 2010, we received a final grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to create this new organization.

To learn more and stay updated, please visit our interim website at: http://workfamily.sas.upenn.edu/index.html

ISEQH 6th International Conference: Making Policy a Health Equity Building Process

ISEQH 6th International Conference: Making Policy a Health Equity Building Process

September 26 – September 28, 2011

Catagena de Indias, Colombia

APA/NIOSH 9th International Conference

Work, Stress, and Health 2011: Work and Well-Being in an Economic Context

May 19 – 22, 2011

DoubleTree Hotel in Orlando, Florida

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