Occupational Health as a Global Health Issue

Dr. Linda Forst, Senior Associate Dean, professor of environmental and occupational health sciences (EOHS), and Director of the UIC-WHO Collaborating Center in Occupational and Environmental Health (Great Lakes Center), attended a meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO) to explore how occupational health fits into the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals. Subsequently, Forst, together with four students, Tessa Bonney, Gabriela Gracia, Anitha Nimmagadda, and Dana Madigan, traveled to Dublin, Ireland in late spring to attend two meetings focused on occupational health. The first was a working meeting of the WHO Collaborating Center Network in Occupational Health. The second was the triennial meeting of the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH). The largest international organization in the field of Occupational Health, ICOH’s aims are to “foster the scientific progress, knowledge and development of occupational health and safety in all its aspects."

The students’ attendance permitted them to gain exposure to the workings of intergovernmental organizations and global health more broadly. Tessa was the Rapporteur of the WHO-CC meeting, taking minutes to document presentations and planning discussions. Gabriela, Tessa, and Dana presented in lecture and poster sessions at the ICOH Congress. These students were able to network with health professionals from around the world. It was at the ICOH conference where Anitha met Dr. Claudio Colosio from University of Milan where he is leading a multi-centered collaborative effort to write occupational disease monographs. This led to a five-week stay over the summer in Milan, Italy for Anitha. “Attending ICOH in Dublin was an amazing experience which allowed me to meet occupational health professionals from all over the world and learn about global occupational health practices. As a result, I was able to spend part of the summer at the University of Milan working with Dr. Claudio Colosio on revising the International Labor Organization (ILO) monographs on Occupational Diseases. I hope to bring the knowledge I gained during this visit back to UIC and share it with my colleagues in EOHS.” The monographs will be presented to the next general assembly of the ILO.

“This was a fantastic opportunity for students to see the workings of international public health organizations and to contribute to the knowledge base in public/occupational health research, policy, and practice,” said Forst. “We look forward to continued student participation in these activities.”