IWH brings together new network to share research and exchange knowledge

Published: June 2024

The Institute for Work & Health (IWH) has, for more than two decades, brought together stakeholders in various ways to build relationships, and to transfer and exchange knowledge and research between parties.

In its newest avenue for stakeholder engagement, IWH recently held the inaugural IWH Connects meeting. This event, held in person in Toronto, hosted a new network of 40 workplace parties, policy-makers and health, safety and wellness practitioners. These stakeholders were brought together to learn about high-priority work and health research and discuss its implications for practice and policy.

The IWH Connects network is a very important part of a long-term strategy at the Institute for Work & Health, said Kate Lamb, chair of the IWH Board of Directors, in her opening remarks. Today is a tremendous opportunity to come together as leaders in our respective communities who understand the vital importance of healthy and safe workplaces here in Ontario, across Canada and across the globe.

One of the four directions in IWH’s current strategic plan involves expanding the reach and impact of its research. In service of this direction, IWH Connects is a new network that adds to the knowledge transfer and exchange activities and stakeholder engagement that IWH integrates into research projects.

We're looking to engage regularly with people who are innovative in the way that they're using research and evidence in the decisions that they're making, said Peter Smith, IWH president and senior scientist, in his remarks to the participants. IWH Connects is specifically designed to facilitate knowledge exchange and the use and dissemination of IWH research. It’s about us hearing from you, you hearing from us, and you hearing from each other.

Throughout the day, the network members heard from IWH researchers about tools and research findings that cut across IWH’s strategic research directions.

Dr. Monique Gignac, IWH scientific director and senior scientist, kicked of the day’s presentations by showcasing the Job Demands and Accommodation Planning Tool (JDAPT), a tool to help workers and workplaces plan often simple accommodations to their jobs based on the demands of the job, not a diagnosis of a disability. Dr. Avi Biswas, IWH scientist, then discussed his project exploring how workplace champions can be leveraged to help implement worker wellness programs. Dr. Arif Jetha, IWH associate scientific director and scientist, presented his work on artificial intelligence and its implications for worker health.

Sara Macdonald, IWH knowledge transfer and exchange manager, also took the opportunity to highlight key IWH tools and findings. These included the IWH Organizational Performance Metric and the OHS Vulnerability Measure, both aimed at assessing occupational health and safety risks; recent findings from a project looking at opioid harms among a group of formerly injured workers; and an ongoing project examining the challenges small business face with the occupational health and safety needs of newcomers.

Throughout the presentations, the researchers sought input from attendees about the relevance and utility of the research to their organization or field. Attendees also had a chance to bring forward any potential challenges related to using the research findings or implementing the tools. The insights provided by these stakeholders will help the Institute to ensure its research is responsive to their needs and maximize the impact of its work.

In the future, we want to continue to keep pace with workplace needs and tap into essential conversations about prevention and wellness across our communities, said Lamb. To that end, IWH Connects events will be held annually with this network of stakeholders to continue to expand the reach and utility of IWH research.