Brown Urges Newly Appointed HHS Secretary to Prioritize Funding for Cincinnati-Based Agency

Brown Toured the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety in February, Which Employs 550 Ohioans Facility Aimed at Improving Workplace Safety Faces Disrepair

WASHINGTON, D.C. –During her first week as Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) wrote Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell urging HHS to prioritize funding for the construction of new facilities at the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) in Cincinnati. As part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NIOSH is responsible for conducting research and making recommendations to prevent work-related injury and illness. The NIOSH facilities in Cincinnati employ nearly 550 Ohioans. Brown toured NIOSH in February and saw first-hand the need for investment by HHS to upgrade facilities and research labs that support critical workplace safety and public health research.

“Investing in workplace safety and public health research is a fundamental responsibility of the federal government,” Brown said. “In order to accomplish this, HHS must fund infrastructure improvements to help stay ahead of the curve on research. That is why I am calling on Secretary Burwell to invest in NIOSH to help ensure American workers have safe, health work environments. The return on investment for a project like this is essential in helping to fuel American competitiveness.”

In his letter to Burwell, Brown pointed to NIOSH’s mission to “prevent work-related injury, illness, and death” as a key reason for new investment. The Institute’s ability to conduct cutting-edge research and development is hampered by outdated buildings and equipment; in Cincinnati, the NIOSH facilities are more than 60 years old and in varying states of disrepair. NIOSH’s research plays a critical role in ensuring a more productive and capable American workforce. Brown urged HHS to work with the CDC to include funding necessary to identify and acquire a new NIOSH facility in Cincinnati in the agency’s fiscal year 2016 budget.

Brown’s letter HHS can be read in its entirety below:

June 12, 2014

Dear Secretary Burwell:

Congratulations on your confirmation as the 22nd Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). I look forward to the future of HHS under your leadership.

I am writing about a priority of mine which I raised with Secretary Sebelius prior to her resignation: the critical need for new buildings for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH) center in Cincinnati, Ohio. By consolidating the existing campuses and upgrading the facilities, we can help improve and enhance scientific collaboration among NIOSH researchers, thereby supporting research that improves worker and workplace safety.

NIOSH’s mission is to “prevent work-related injury, illness, and death.” Unfortunately, most of its facilities are more than 60 years old and in varying states of disrepair. The irony that these buildings are in such a state is not lost on NIOSH or its dedicated employees. At a time when NIOSH’s efforts are essential to American competitiveness and the prevention of work-related safety and health risks, we should be working to ensure that its facilities befit its mission.

In Cincinnati, NIOSH research and support activities are located on two separate campuses, approximately eight miles apart. Both campuses are comprised of aging 1950’s-era facilities that are deficient in both space configuration and building systems. Because of this, collaboration is limited and NIOSH’s cutting-edge scientific research is inhibited. Upgrading these facilities is of paramount importance. 

We know that a healthy and safe workplace leads to a more productive and capable American workforce. New buildings would allow NIOSH to undertake the cutting-edge scientific research that forms the core of its public-health mission.

As HHS prepares its fiscal year 2016 budget, I request that HHS work with the CDC to find and prioritize funding necessary to identify and acquire a new NIOSH facility in Cincinnati. I look forward to working with you on this important issue as well as other important issues in your new role as Secretary of HHS. Thank you in advance for your support.

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