Fall not only brings the changing of leaves and cozy sweaters, but the annual Western States Occupational Network, or WestON, meeting. Every September, participants from 19 Western states come together in Denver, CO, for a day and a half meeting to advance and build capacity for occupational safety and health in the region. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the annual WestON meeting. Each year, WestON attracts over 60 participants from the NIOSH-funded Education and Research Centers (ERCs), Agricultural Centers and Training Project Grants; Federal, State and Tribal agencies; public health scientists; trainees and policymakers. Participants present and exchange ideas while identifying collaborative activities to address occupational safety and health issues in the West.
Recognizing the need to build occupational health surveillance at the state level in the West, the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE), NIOSH Western States Office (now part of the NIOSH Western States Division), and Mountain and Plains Education and Research Center (MAPERC) established WestON in 2008. WestON includes participants from 19 Western states (AK, AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, KS, MT, NE, NV, NM, ND, OK, OR, SD, TX, UT, WA, WY) who are working or strongly interested in occupational safety and health.
Western states share some collective identity based on common priority areas in workplace safety and health, such as mining, construction, and agriculture. The goal of WestON is to build and strengthen capacity among these 19 Western states to conduct state-based epidemiology, surveillance, and prevention of work-related injuries and illnesses. The framework of the WestON meeting is based on the concept that “regional” identification of common issues can help support the development of occupational epidemiology capacity in states that historically have had limited funding in this core area of public health.
Over the past 10 years, WestON agendas and topics have shifted from basic surveillance concepts to setting strategic priorities for interventions in the Western region and engaging a more diverse group of partners. Initial meetings provided participants with an opportunity to refine their surveillance skills and establish contacts in their field. More recent meetings have included participants from the NIOSH Centers of Excellence, Tribal Epidemiology Centers and journalists. The WestON meeting is one of the few venues where state, Federal and academic partners gather in a relatively small setting to share findings, promote collaboration and strategize about future activities.
The 10th annual WestON meeting will take place September 13-14, 2017, in downtown Denver, with over 70 participants from the Western region. This year’s keynote speaker is Michael Grabell, a reporter from ProPublica, who will highlight workers’ compensation issues. Presentations will cover a wide array of topics, including novel uses of occupational health data, using Informatics in occupational safety and health and occupational issues related to marijuana. As with all WestON meetings, ample time will be devoted to networking and exchanging ideas for future projects. Next year’s meeting will be held in Denver on September 13-14, 2018.
How can you get involved?
Join the WestON Listserv to learn about occupational safety and health research, news, and announcements. If you would like to join, please email Song Xue at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the annual WestON meetings, please contact Yvonne Boudreau at email@example.com.