Steve Booth-Butterfield Joins HELD/NIOSH
I've accepted the position of Branch Chief for the Health Communication
Research Branch (HCRB) of the Health Effects Laboratory Division (HELD)
for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
located in Morgantown, West Virginia. The HCRB represents a major committment
by the Federal government to include the theory and research from academic
communication into the normal science of health and safety research and
A little background: the Health Effects Lab Division, HELD, is composed
of 7 branches: Toxicology & Molecular Biology; Pathology &
Physiology; Exposure Assessment; Engineering & Control Technology;
Biostatistics; Analytical Services; and Health Communication Research.
HELD is a basic science division. NIOSH is taking a creative step here,
attempting to marry a social science like Communication with physical and
life sciences. HCRB will employ communication concepts and methods to
understand and reduce mortality and morbidity in the workplace the same
way the other Branches use concepts and methods from biology, physics,
and engineering to accomplish the same goal.
Given the scientific orientation of HELD in particular and NIOSH in
general, HCRB also takes a strong empirical research perspective.
The Branch is composed of professionals who have strong training and
experience with quantitative, experimental research, cutting-edge technological
skills, who enjoy working in research teams, and who want to make a difference
in the world.
HCRB has internship, graduate assistantship, and post-doctoral programs.
We also have a variety of partnership arrangements with
academic researchers. The Federal government has a number of
mechanisms for providing links and resources between HCRB and other researchers.
Installing a particular mechanism is a bureaucratic challenge, but it is
not the most important feature for developing a relationship. If
you want to understand and use communication to improve workplace safety
and health, then we can probably find a suitable mechanism. The key
is finding the common research interest.
NIOSH tends to orient to occupational health and safety through agents
(chemical exposure, noise levels, etc.) and diseases (silicosis, asthma,
cancer, etc.) in a classic dose-response analysis. Social scientists
would tend to divide the problem differently: personality processes,
attitudes and social cognition, information processing, message targeting
and tailoring and how these variables affect cognition, affect, and behavior
regarding safety and health. At NIOSH, the context of the problem
(the dose-response equation and the specific agent-disease process) drives
the research and hence is the starting point for any social science investigation.
Thus, the first step for any HCRB research project is to understand the
basic science of the agent-disease process, then deploy our concept, theories,
and methods to solve the problem.
Presently NIOSH is committed to a set of problems called the National
Occupational Research Agenda or NORA. The creation of NORA is an
interesting communication case study in itself (see "The National Occupational
Research Agenda: A Model of Broad Stakeholder Input into Priority Setting,"
by L. Rosenstock, C. Olenec, and G.R. Wegner in the March 1998 issue of
American Journal of Public Health for background). NORA
defines three large areas of inquiry: Disease and Injury, Work Environment
and Workforce, and Research Tools and Approaches. For more details
on NORA visit its homepage.
Steve Booth-Butterfield, Chief, HCRB
1095 Willowdale Road, M/S 4050
Morgantown, WV 26508
voice: 304 285 6090
fax: 304 285 6166
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Copyright © Steve Booth-Butterfield, 1995-00
Most recent revision July 8, 2000.