Marnie Dobson, Ph.D. is taking on the position of the Director of the Healthy Work Campaign, an initiative of the Center for Social Epidemiology, a non-profit organization in California. She is also the Associate Director of the Center, as well as an Assistant Adjunct Professor at the University of California, Irvine Center for Occupational and Environmental Health.
Marnie Dobson draws inspiration from her hard-working parents’ example. She watched them struggle in low-paying jobs while she was growing up in Australia. Her father was a taxi driver who became frustrated with his employer not fairly paying the drivers. He organized with the transport workers union to put pressure on the taxi company to improve pay and working conditions for all of the drivers.
Her father’s success encouraged Marnie to become a union organizer for student employees while in graduate school. Experiences such as these demonstrated the positive changes that could be made through collective action, lessons that Dr. Dobson continues to draw upon.
“Working people are in crisis in American workplaces. But I believe workers are the change they are looking for. They can’t do it alone. Work stress is not an individual problem–its root causes are in the workplace. So change needs to be collective and collaborative.”
Dr. Dobson believes the Healthy Work Campaign’s mission is to create a positive impact on workers at every level of society. “Work stress has reached epidemic proportions in America and around the world. However, the U.S. lags behind other developed, high-income nations when it comes to addressing the causes and detrimental effects of work stress,” she says.
Dr. Dobson’s academic and professional background includes nearly 20 years of work stress research. As a sociologist and expert in occupational health, she has worked with blue collar workers and their labor unions, including firefighters and urban transit operators. She believes partnerships between labor, management and researchers, that also include the voices of working people in traditional epidemiological studies, is essential to improving work.
“Listening to working people share how work stress impacts their lives, health and family is of paramount importance,” says Dr. Dobson. Research, according to Dobson, is “just a systematic way to collect the voices and experiences of workers and put them out front and center.” Dobson and her team include workers’ stories in the Healthy Work Campaign’s multimedia content.
By partnering with businesses, unions and individual workers, the Campaign seeks to redesign workplaces into healthier environments, improving the health and well-being of all workers.
From harassment, bullying, and toxic work environments to inadequate staffing, unrealistic workloads, and time pressures, the Healthy Work Campaign aims to make lasting positive changes in the way that Americans work. These improvements contribute to high productivity and a healthier bottom line for businesses. “Healthy work is good for workers. Healthy work is good for business.”
As the Director of the Healthy Work Campaign, Dr. Dobson is responsible for coordinating colleagues on various projects, creating intervention tools including the Healthy Work Survey, made available online for free. Upon her appointment as the Director of the Healthy Work Campaign, Dr. Dobson said, “I am committed to facilitating a collaborative and enthusiastic team of academics and non-academics.”
Another goal she has as Director “… is to create accessible educational material that translates 40 years of scientific research for a broader audience, showing how detrimental work stress is to human health and well-being and also to highlight the organizational solutions to these problems.”
Dr. Marnie Dobson concludes, “The importance of this work cannot be overstated. Healthy work saves lives.”