Going for the Double Whammy in Sun Safety Education

Photo credit: CDC

Skin cancer is becoming a young person’s disease, with melanoma (the most deadly kind of skin cancer) being the 2nd most common form of cancer for people aged 15-29.[1] What’s more, reducing exposure to the sun is a preventable risk factor that can reduce a person’s risk of getting the disease. But as we know, it’s not easy to get people to permanently change their health behaviors.

However, there are many educational strategies that can be successful in changing health behaviors. I’d like to turn to Patient H, a case study showing how an intervention program drastically improved a young worker’s attitude and behavior towards sun safety. Even though Patient H began the intervention with many misconceptions about UV radiation, tans, and sun protection, the intervention was wildly successful in permanently changing her behaviors.

How do I know so much about Patient H? Because Patient H is me! I used to be pretty bad when it came to sun safely. When I was younger, I prided myself on not having to wear sunscreen because of my brown skin. While I never succumbed to the tanning bed, I could certainly be found lying out in the sun throughout our precious summer months. And on cloudy days, it would never even occur to me to use sunscreen.

Since beginning this internship at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences, I’ve changed my ways (a public health miracle!): I have started wearing sunscreen everyday (even on cloudy days), could care less about having an even tan (I’d rather be patchy than skin cancer-y, thank you), and I even bought a pink parasol for portable shade (which I have already gotten a compliment on).

As a “sun safety” intern, it’s been my job to develop sun safety trainings for young workers. To do this, I’ve had to learn as much as I can about skin cancer and sun safety. After learning as much as I have, it just makes sense to protect my skin from the sun. I had to discover much of this information on my own, so I feel a sense of ownership and responsibility to understanding it fully. Having knowledge about sun safety, from how often to reapply sunscreen to the way UV rays damages DNA, feels empowering and has influenced me to make a personal decision to take care of my skin.

While not everyone can have an OHSU summer internship, I think there’s something to having people educate themselves via teaching others. It’s like a covert way of getting someone to learn about something: no one made me learn all this stuff about skin cancer and sun protection, but I needed to know it to be able to help others, which has made me think about my own behaviors and how I should change them. Perhaps in the future we can create programs that employ high school students and young adults to teach younger children about sun safety, which I believe would be effective in educating both groups. When it comes to educating about sun safety, it seems to me that we should look for the double whammy!

Submitted by: Hilary Nichols, Summer Intern, McCullough and Rohlman Labs

[1] Bleyer A, O’Leary M, Barr R, Ries LAG (eds): Cancer epidemiology in older adolescents and young adults 15 to 29 years of age, including SEER incidence and survival: 1975-2000. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute; 2006.

Associated General Contractors National Meeting Held in Portland

Portland was the location of the Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America national Safety & Health Committee Meeting held July 16-18, 2014, and I was fortunate to be asked to present information about the toxicology of crystalline silica at one of their sessions. The AGC is dedicated to construction safety and health and plays an active role in improving safety and health through participation in the development of regulatory and legislative activity at both the national and local level as well as assisting in the development and creation of new safety training programs and products. Members attended this year’s meeting from all across the nation.

Among the highlights of the meeting was a presentation by Dr. John Gambatese from the Oregon State University School of Civil and Construction Engineering titled From Research to Practice: A Collaborative Approach to Construction Safety. Oregon OSHA administrator Michael Wood gave a particularly effective address on construction safety from the OSHA perspective. I participated in a panel discussion on the Federal OSHA’s proposed new silica standard. OSHA is considering whether to reduce the crystalline silica exposure standard in order to reduce the incidence and risk for silicosis and associated occupational diseases. I, along with Oregon AGC chapter member Alden Strealy and Oregon OSHA’s Chris Ottoson, presented information on the toxicology of silica (presented by Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Science’s Dr. Fred Berman), silica prevalence and exposure prevention (presented by Alden Strealy) and different aspects of the proposed rule changes (presented by Chris Ottoson). Discussion and questions following the panel presentation demonstrated significant concern about the feasibility of implementing the proposed changes. For example: how difficult would it be to accurately measure crystalline silica under the myriad conditions that exist at construction sites? Will the proposed rules place an unreasonable burden on small construction businesses? Or, Will the new standard actually reduce the incidence of disease caused by crystalline silica? Hopefully, answers to these and other questions regarding the proposed changes to the silica standard will be made clear as Federal OSHA advances through its rules process. We would like to thank the AGC of Oregon for asking us to contribute to their efforts and for allowing us the use of their facilities in Wilsonville for safety-related meetings, such as planning for the upcoming GOSH conference.

Here is a link to information on silica from our web resource page.

Training Young Workers: How-To’s for Employers

Young Workers learn about trades and safety at Oregon Women in Trades Career Fair 2014.

We recently heard about two terribly tragic young worker fatalities in Washington and in Calgary.

The first, a fifteen-year-old working near a gravel crusher, had held the job for only a month and a half. Although being investigated by Alberta Occupational Safety and Health, a co-worker reported that the victim was operating a piece of heavy equipment when something went wrong. The second fatality, in Washington State, was a nineteen-year-old working as part of a three-person team blowing bark who fell into an auger.

Sadly, there is not a single miracle solution to keep people safe at work. Certainly important starting points include effective safety and health training provided to all employees prior to beginning work.

SAIF Corporation has created fact sheets and tools to help Oregon employers effectively train and provide safe and healthy workplaces for all employees, including those who are young or new to a job. Most recently released is an 11-minute webinar titled Young Workers, Old-School Training which is freely available online. Check it out and see what you think – and share it with employers. Also visit SAIF’s Young Worker page to view other resources, including Young Worker, Smart Strategies fact sheets. Also accessible on this page are fact sheets created by O[yes], targeted directly to young workers and their parents. Finally, for even more resources, visit the Young Worker page on our Occupational Health Sciences Library (or CROETweb).

Occupational Health Psychology Summer Institute and Corrections Meeting Held at Portland State

The Oregon Health Workforce Center (OHWC) presented the first ever National Symposium on Corrections Worker Health last Tuesday (July 15) followed by the Third Annual Occupational Health Psychology Summer Institute (July 16-18) at Portland State University with added support from the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences (at Oregon Health & Science University). These major national meetings drew in 75-80 people.

The Corrections meeting was designed to identify major health problems in Corrections and to develop a research agenda to address those problems. The meeting was keynoted by National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Deputy Director Margaret Kitt and National Institute of Justice Social Science Analyst Marie Garcia.  Pictured at the podium is the Symposium co-Director Dr. Kerry Kuehl of the OHWC and OHSU.  Dr. Martin Cherniack of the Center for the Promotion of Health in the New England Workplace (at the University of Connecticut) was the other co-Director; he gave the lead presentation of the symposium.

The Summer Institute led by Director Leslie Hammer, PhD, of Portland State University was divided into Theory and Research, the intersection of  research and practice: Total Worker Health (led by Dr. Kent Anger, OHWC Director) and keynoted by Dr. Laura Punnett of the University of Massachusetts at Lowell, while the final day was devoted to practical interventions in the workplace.  Most of the speakers at the Summer Institute are pictured below.

Below are pictures of speakers not in the group picture above.

Below is a picture of Steve Hecker who was honored for his 3 years in the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center as one of Oregon’s finest; Steve is retiring from the Center in 2014.

Lastly is a picture of the Directors and Associate Directors of the four NIOSH-sponsored Total Worker Health Centers who attended the Total Worker Health day at the Summer Institute answering questions from the audience.

A web cast of the Corrections Symposium and the Practice day of the Summer Institute will be available on the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center web site in late July.


Congratulations ASSE Columbia-Willamette

Safety and health professionals in Oregon are lucky to have the opportunity to join one of several chapters of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE). If you aren’t already a member, you might consider how this association can help you network with others, keep abreast of what’s new in our field, and help strengthen your organization’s health and safety efforts. Oregon ASSE chapters include Columbia-Willamette, including Santiam and St. Helens sections, Cascade (Eugene), and Southern Oregon.

The American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Columbia-Willamette Chapter was recognized last month as the 2012-2013 recipient of the Large Chapter of the Year Award. By receiving this award, the chapter was identified as a leader amongst the 151 ASSE chapters throughout the world, with regard to professional development, chapter communication and service to members. I am pleased to be a member of this organization, and I sincerely thank those dedicated members holding officer and leadership appointments. Charging ahead, we look forward to the 2015 Oregon Governor’s Occupational Safety & Health Conference (GOSH), a joint effort between ASSE Columbia-Willamette, Oregon OSHA, and Oregon and SW Washington industries and labor.

Deb Fell-Carlson receives the 2013-14 SPY Award.

We also offer our congratulations to Deb Fell-Carlson who was recognized by the Columbia-Willamette Chapter as the 2013-14 Safety and Health Professional of the Year (SPY). Deb is the Policyholder Safety and Wellness Adviser at SAIF Corporation. Most safety and health professionals in Oregon have likely heard Deb present on topics related to safety, health and wellness as she makes her rounds as a dynamic and knowledgeable speaker. Here at Occupational Health Sciences and the Oregon Healthy Workforce Center we appreciate Deb as an active collaborator and partner in our initiatives.

If you haven’t already attended a local ASSE meeting or joined ASSE, now is a great time to do it! And if you are an ASSE member and are interested in health and wellness, join our open call meeting to learn more about the ASSE Health and Wellness Branch this Friday, July 11 at 9 AM Pacific Time.


Why Use Sunscreen When it is Cloudy?

Melanoma of the Skin: Incident Rates by State, 2010 -Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention

Most of us are pretty sure we know how to protect ourselves in the sun. Use sunscreen when it’s hot and sunny, try not to get a sunburn, wear a hat, and so on. But we live in Oregon, home of the cloudy day and liquid sunshine. And if it’s cloudy, there’s no reason to bother with all that sun protection business, right? The clouds will protect us?

While I’ve heard this from so many Oregonians, it’s actually a big misconception. Ultraviolet radiation, the invisible rays that come from the sun and can do nasty thing like prematurely age your skin and cause skin cancer, can go right through clouds.  It’s actually the UV rays, not the warmth or brightness of the sun, that can cause your skin to burn, and wearing sunscreen would prevent that from happening.

But when the clouds roll in, most of us would never think to put on sunscreen to protect our skin. Because why would you wear sunscreen on a cloudy day? Believe me, as an Oregonian, I understand the dissonance.

That’s why when I came across a product that had rebranded their sunscreen to incorporate clouds into the name, I was impressed that it would  remind us that we need protection from UV rays even on cloudy days. And seeing that Oregon is consistently in the TOP 5 for highest rates of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) in the U.S., it might actually save lives.

Submitted by: Hilary Nichols, Western Washington University Student, Summer Intern in the McCullough and Rohlman Labs

CROETweb Sun Exposure topic

“Nurture Your Nature” Wins Serious Play Award

Let’s Get Healthy!’s new game about epigenetics has won a 2014 International Serious Play Award silver medal!  The Serious Play Awards honor exceptional examples of corporate, military and education games, as well as games for good.  The “Nurture Your Nature” game has been used to teach epigenetics to middle school students and will be demonstrated at the 2014 Serious Play Conference at the University of Southern California in July.  Play the game!

For a full list of winners and more information about the 2014 Serious Play Conference visit http://www.seriousplayconference.com. Visit the Let’s Get Healthy! website.

Submitted by Lisa Marriott.

Welcome Summer Interns!

Colleen Hunter (left) and Jeana Yee, two of our 2014 Summer Interns.

June brings us many new faces in the form of sharp and energetic college students. This summer is no exception, and we are pleased to greet our 14 summer interns who will be supporting Occupational Health Sciences and Oregon Healthy Workforce Center research.

All of the students selected for these paid internships are either Oregon residents or attend Oregon schools. Students will spend three months working alongside researchers and faculty on basic and applied research projects, sharing their own research findings in poster presentations later in August.

Congratulations to the following students who have been selected as our 2014 Summer Interns:

  • Aviva Browning – Lewis & Clark College, Portland, OR – Anger Lab
  • Jami Cheng – Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD  – Rohlman Lab
  • Devin Christiansen – Portland State University, Portland, OR – Anger Lab
  • Leanne Hicks – Portland State University, Portland, OR – Hammer Lab
  • Colleen Hunter – Pacific Univ. Oregon, Forest Grove, OR – Olson Lab
  • Michael Jacobson – Reed College, Portland, OR – Butler Lab
  • Krista Leonard – Willamette University, Salem, OR – Rohlman Lab
  • Hilary Nichols – Western Washington Univ., Bellingham, WA  – McCullough Lab
  • Tiffany Nguyen – Yale University, New Haven, CT – Rohlman Lab
  • Silvia Plascencia – Univ. of Portland, Portland, OR – Kretzschmar Lab
  • Grace Recht –­ Ohio Wesleyan University, Delaware, OH  ­ Kuehl Lab
  • Ryan Stadnik – Univ. of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO – Spencer Lab
  • Madison Trowbridge – Linfield College, McMinnville, OR – Shea Lab
  • Jeana Yee  – Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD – Olson Lab

Thank you to all of the students who submitted applications this year.  Learn more about our Summer Intern Program.


Director Steven Shea Receives Distinguished Service Award

AASM president Safwan Badr, MD (L), presents award to Steve Shea.

Congratulations to Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences Director, Steven Shea, who received the Distinguished Service Award from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) during the 28th Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, held May 31 – June 4 in Minneapolis, MN. The award was presented in recognition of his 5 years service on the AASM Board of Directors.

The AASM is the only professional society dedicated exclusively to the medical subspecialty of sleep medicine. With the vision of achieving optimal health through better sleep, the AASM sets standards and promotes excellence in health care, education and research. The AASM was established in 1975 as the Association of Sleep Disorders Centers, and has a combined membership of nearly 12,000 accredited member sleep centers and individual members, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals. From insomnia to sleep apnea, the AASM considers sleep disorders an illness that has reached epidemic proportions.

The AASM mission is to improve sleep health and promote high quality patient centered care through advocacy, education, strategic research, and practice standards.

Health Consequences of Sedentary Work

Sit less, move often, move more was the message from Dr. Nico Pronk (HealthPartners) at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences Symposium Thursday (June 5).  He showed research evidence that providing sit-stand desks in his company was followed by reduced sitting time and reduced low back pain in employees. More than one speaker recommended standing and walking for a few minutes following sitting for an hour (or even after you sit for less time).  ‘Sitting is the new smoking’ was mentioned by more than one speaker, suggesting that prolonged sitting had serious negative health consequences.

Dr. Saurabh Thosar (Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences) followed with evidence that people who report prolonged sitting time die earlier … this is even true of individuals who are highly physically active. Consequences of sitting for as short a time as an hour are reduced blood flow in the thighs and increased blood pressure.  Dr. Jennifer Hess warned that stretching and fitness was not a substitute for ergonomics.  She focused on balance and muscle symmetry. For example, a worker returning too soon from an injury can lead to avoiding use of a muscle that was not fully recovered and this can then lead to asymmetric postures that produce to further injuries.  Shown below are Dr. Hess, Dr. Pronk and Dr. Thosar responding to a question from the audience. Occupational Health Sciences Director Dr. Steve Shea is on the right, coordinating the Q&A period.

Speakers provided examples of healthy exercise programs and addressed the need to provide exercise options appropriate for different cultural groups to have effective programs.  Below, Occupational Health Sciences Senior Research Associate Dede Montgomery introduces Kadalyst Wellness Director/Partner Kerwynn Prinzing (standing at lectern) who described an activity program that had changed her life.  A webcast of all the presentations with much more detail including data supporting the results described above will be available at the Oregon Institute of Occupational Health Sciences Health & Safety Training web page under Outreach and Education, by mid-June.


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