CUNY Digital History Archive

CUNY Digital History Archive

A participatory project to collect and preserve the histories of the City University of New York — A work in progress
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Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at Hunter College

Formally established in 1990, Hunter College’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) was founded with the simple mission of promoting community and workplace health. Over the course of subsequent decades, the Center’s efforts to serve this founding goal would see it involved in a variety of efforts that paired it with community groups, labor unions, public employees, students, and more. A research, training, and education center, the COEH tackled topics as disparate as workplace ergonomics and hazardous waste training to asthma management and lead poisoning prevention. In so doing, the Center offered hundreds of courses, published dozens of reports, and engaged firsthand with neighborhoods across New York City. Over the course of its existence, the Hunter College-based group’s footprint would stretch far beyond CUNY, impacting groups across the city, state and Northeast region.

Prior to the Center’s official creation in 1990, the group took early form in the mid-1980s under the cooperative efforts of founding co-directors, David Kotelchuck, associate professor and director of the Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences (EOHS) program, and Stephen Zoloth, professor and director of the Community Health Education program. Upon joining a federally funded Rutgers University-based consortium for Hazardous Waste Worker Training in 1987, the pair established the self-sustainability and the funding necessary for the formal designation of a “center.” Though it would be three years before CUNY’s Board of Trustees granted them such a status, the group’s work with the Rutgers-based collective on matters of hazardous waste training—they were the sole New York representatives—established what would remain a significant function of the Center throughout its history.

In its early years, in addition to Hazardous Materials and Emergency Response Training that largely partnered the Center with state and city agencies, COEH’s occupational emphases also included its participation in a Minority Worker Training Program and the Susan Harwood Ergonomics Training Program. The former, a program designed to educate young people of color interested in pursuing careers in trade unions joined the COEH and the Carpenter’s Union in Manhattan. The latter, meanwhile coupled the Center with PACE (the Paper, Atomic, Chemical, and Engineering Workers International Union) through the early-2000s to provide training intended to “reduce the incidence and severity of musculoskeletal disorders” caused by workplace ergonomic hazards.

While the Center’s occupational training programs affiliated it with unions, government agencies, and private employers, its environmental efforts permitted instead a community-centric approach. Working closely with various neighborhood groups throughout NYC, the Center: educated Brooklyn school personnel, nurses, and social workers on the topic of lead poisoning prevention; contributed to a Citywide Community Asthma Management Program that sought to reduce the illness’ effects by empowering families and communities on management and prevention techniques; trained Community Health Workers to serve as vital intermediaries between neighborhoods and health professionals; and investigated pest control efforts in conjunction with the New York City Housing Authority.

In terms of project involvement, the Center reached the peak of its efforts in the early 2000s, a period that required eight full-time staff members, five part-timers, and several student interns in order to meet its many commitments. In later years, the Center would gradually contract with the expiration of several grants and the retirement of founding co-Director David Kotelchuck. In 2017, its last remaining effort continued to be hazardous materials training for state and city agencies, the very same effort that initially saw to the Center’s creation twenty-seven years earlier.

This collection represents a small, but varied amount of materials saved by the COEH since the 1980s. Included are documents that precede the Center itself, curricular materials, funding breakdowns, publications, agendas, photographs, and more. Together, they help to illustrate the many efforts of the Center over its important and impactful history. Many thanks are owed to Dave Kotelchuck for retaining and sharing the documents for inclusion in this archive.

Throughout the years, dozens of people worked at the Center in various capacities, all playing an indispensable role in the COEH's long term success. An assembled list of those faculty and staff can be found here.

Go to all 34 Items in collection.

6 Featured Items:

COEH Grant Awards 1990-1999

Produced by Hunter College's Office of Research Administration, this report offers summary of the various sources of funding and projects undertaken by the COEH between the years 1990 and 1999. While the projects cover a number of topics, [...]

COEH Grant Awards 2000-2016

Produced by Hunter College's Office of Research Administration, this report offers summary of the various sources of funding and projects undertaken by the Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH) between the years 2000 and 2016. [...]

Final Report for Susan Harwood Training Grant

This report, produced by Hunter College's Center for Occupational and Environmental Health and the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy Workers International Union (PACE), was created at the conclusion of their three-year, Susan [...]

Meeting with Founding Dean Dr. Kenneth Olden

Prepared for an October 2009 meeting with Dr. Kenneth Olden, the founding dean of the CUNY School of Public Health at Hunter College, this document highlights many of the past successes and efforts of Hunter College's Center for Occupational [...]

Center for Occupational and Environmental Health ( COEH) Brochure

This brochure from the early 2000s outlines many of the programs offered by Hunter College's Center for Occupational and Environmental Health (COEH). Included among these were asthma education, community health worker training, and lead [...]

Go to all 34 Items in collection.

Center for Occupational and Environmental Health at Hunter College