2013 UMASH Annual Forum


APRIL 17, 2013


The first UMASH Annual Forum, Making Connections to Improve Worker Safety and Health, was held on April 17, 2013 at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus with approximately forty participants from academia, veterinary medicine, public health, occupational medicine, animal welfare, extension, dairy industry, and government. The goal of the forum was to showcase the work being done by UMASH and engage stakeholders in a dialogue to improve the health and safety of workers and their families in the Upper Midwest region.

2013 UMASH Annual ForumUMASH center director, Bruce H. Alexander, Ph.D., welcomed participants and provided an overview of the center and its mission. In a series of roundtable discussions, the UMASH investigators engaged participants in dialogue focused on their projects and related issues. A number of agricultural safety and health related posters were on display for viewing and discussion throughout the morning.

Forum participants heard presentations from the 2012 UMASH Pilot Project awardees. These presentations demonstrated the impact UMASH center can have for the region by stimulating new approaches to existing problems. In its first year the program sponsored projects that developed culturally appropriate training materials for safe use of agricultural chemicals by Hmong farmers, established baseline data for agriculturally related enteric infections in South Dakota, developed a protocol for a study of immune responses to agricultural and non-agricultural exposures in infants, and developed consensus ideas on the needs for building design standards for animal agriculture buildings. These projects brought new investigators and ideas to the center and initiated new activities to improve health and well being of agriculture workers and families.

2013-af-sm2The forum included a screening of a video, Connecting the Field to the Cloud, that demonstrated how emerging technology (QR codes) can enhance health and safety in rural and agricultural health settings. This project was funded by the Midwest Center for Occupational Health and Safety; a UMASH partner in addressing to address agricultural worker health and safety in the region.

Feedback from the UMASH project teams confirmed that roundtable discussions were a good way to share information, get feedback, and interact more directly with forum participants. UMASH will use a similar format in future events as we continue to identify and engage stakeholders.

Forum participants who completed the evaluation survey expressed their support and interest in the work of UMASH; several participants gave input on how they might help UMASH projects or research-to-practice initiatives in the future. Concerns were voiced about shortage of funding as a barrier to promoting agricultural worker safety and health. Although UMASH funding for pilot projects is limited, UMASH can be a resource by providing expertise to researchers developing new proposals. Overall, participants felt they had a voice at the Forum and would recommend future UMASH Forums to others.