Cassandra Okechukwu, MSN, MPH, ScD
Incorporating work and working conditions into intervention and disparities research
Cassandra’s research reflects her professional and academic training and experiences, which span across disciplines. The unifying theme underlying her research is the contribution of work-related social determinants to disparities in health and health behaviors. Using both qualitative and quantitative research methods, she has formulated a research agenda with two main foci: epidemiological investigation of health disparities and work site-based health promotion intervention.
Epidemiological Investigation Of Health Disparities
Cassandra examines how social environments, especially at work, become embodied and manifest in disease risk and health behaviors. In one study, she found that social hazards in the work environment (but not occupational hazards) were associated with smoking. She has now moved this research forward by using nationally representative datasets to investigate how public policy, macroeconomic and macro-social forces influence health. She and her colleagues found that African Americans held beliefs and engaged in social interactions that could keep them from following recommendations to prevent lung cancer. Her current study examines the potential influence of macroeconomic shocks and disparities in coverage by tobacco control policies on the high prevalence of smoking among the working class.
Worksite-Based Health Promotion Intervention
Cassandra uses knowledge garnered from epidemiologic research to develop and test theoretically driven community-based interventions. She evaluated the effectiveness of a multi-component smoking cessation intervention, which was designed to be part of the job hazards training to prepare apprentices for entry into blue-collar building trade jobs. The intervention resulted in better smoking cessation rates in the intervention group, highlighting the potential benefits of apprenticeship site-based interventions. However, despite a significant reduction in amount of cigarettes smoked, there was significant smoking relapse six months after the intervention, indicating that the study of relapse may be important to include in future studies. She has continued to be involved in intervention research as a member of the multidisciplinary Work, Family and Health Network intervention team.
Cassandra is a non-discriminating avid reader. She also enjoys writing and cooking and is a joy to watch on the dance floor.