A round-up of IWH research funded by external grants

A snapshot of some of the studies being undertaken by Institute for Work & Health (IWH) scientists, thanks to external grants received between January 2012 and June 2013.

Published: November 11, 2013

Fall is a time to give thanks. The work of finding evidence for workplace health and safety practices would not be possible without funding support—both in core funding from the Province of Ontario and external grants from research funding agencies and programs. Here’s a snapshot of some of the studies being undertaken by Institute for Work & Health (IWH) scientists, thanks to external grants received between January 2012 and June 2013.

Employment needs and experiences of older workers with arthritis and diabetes

As the first of the baby boomers reach the traditional age of retirement, increasing numbers say they want or need to stay in the workforce. But many feel they can’t because of a chronic health condition. Those are the people at the centre of a new IWH study by Dr. Monique Gignac and her team.

There has been a lot of talk about the aging workforce and, let’s face it, it is here, she says. So when mature workers say, ‘I want to keep working,’ are they going to be able to do that?

The study zeros in on two common chronic illnesses among older workers: arthritis and diabetes. Both conditions can be managed, but symptoms can flare up, potentially making work very difficult. Both are also invisible conditions, so people living with them typically have to decide whether or not to divulge their health problems and ask for accommodation at work.

In this study, Gignac will recruit 1,500 workers from across the country and compare the experiences of those with arthritis or diabetes to those with no disabling conditions. Among the questions she’ll be asking are: What kinds of work accommodations do people need? Are they available? Are they used? And do they help?

Supervisor training program for work disability prevention

Too often, the knowledge and skills required to ensure that injured workers are successfully brought back to work reside within a small handful of experts in the workplace—the human resources manager, return-to-work coordinator and/or disability management professional.

A new study will look at the impact supervisors might have on successful return to work (RTW). Dr. Vicki Kristman leads the team that will evaluate a supervisor training program developed in the U.S. and modified for use in the context of Canadian hospitals. The study aims to improve the ability of supervisors to solve RTW problems in order to decrease work disability and improve return-to-work rates. The study will be carried out at a large Toronto-area hospital and at a similar-sized hospital in the U.S.

The goal is to improve supervisors’ ability to communicate with employees, unions, health-care providers and to improve their response to workplace injuries, in order to decrease time away from work due to injury, Kristman says. Providing supervisors with tools to improve their response to musculoskeletal and other workplace injuries may improve worker health and disability outcomes.

Impairment and work disability of Ontario workers’ compensation claimants (1998 2006)

The workers’ compensation system in Ontario experienced a major change in 1998. Among other things, the wage-replacement rate was reduced from 90 per cent to 85 per cent and a new emphasis was put on getting people back to work. Dr. Emile Tompa, who has done research on issues related to income loss and benefits adequacy among workers’ compensation claimants prior to 1998, is now turning his attention to the experiences of claimants under the new system.

In this study, Tompa and his team will examine findings from linking two sets of data: Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) claims and Statistics Canada’s Longitudinal Administrative Database (a sample of 20 per cent of Canadians who file taxes). The goal of the study is to better understand how claimants fare financially in the new program, says Tompa.

Are their benefits adequate? What’s their earnings trajectory? Are poverty issues a concern? Are there people falling through the cracks? How well do they fare compared to those who are not injured? And how well do they fare compared to claimants from earlier programs? Tompa asks. This is what we want to find out.

All three studies above are funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). For a complete list of grants, including those funded by the WSIB, the World Health Organization, the Australian Research Council Scheme and the Canadian Arthritis Network, go to: www.iwh.on.ca/grant-round-up.