DEME TIG Week: Lessons Learned from Evaluating an Opioids and Workplace Training Program by Eric Persaud

Hello!  We are Sue Ann Sarpy and Phung Pham, Co-Chairs of the DEME-TIG.  One of the most important functions of our DEME-TIG is to support the evaluation activities of new and emerging evaluators.  We would like to highlight Eric Persaud, who recently received his DrPH and is now focusing his efforts on evaluation of various occupational safety and health training programs, including the work he discusses below as an independent contractor for the National Clearinghouse for Worker Health and Safety Training that supports the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Worker Training Program (National Institutes of Health, United States).

Eric Persuad

Hey everyone, Eric Persaud, DrPH, here as a recent graduate of State University of New York-Downstate School of Public Health.

During most of my time in graduate school, I was working on hazardous materials construction as a laborer and geologist. While I had plenty of working experience, I had little to no experience in research in occupational health and safety (OHS). To get a better sense of research, I reached out to a facility member in emergency management.

We ended up having an informal meeting, where the doctor mentioned some cases, both reported and unreported, of fentanyl exposure among first responders. We decided to investigate worker practices and perceptions to better protect first responders, the first to do so to our knowledge.

Following those events, I became involved with the National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Worker Training Program (WTP) to evaluate their Opioids and the Workplace training program. NIEHS WTP was a natural fit as they fund non-profit organizations to provide health and safety training for workers who may be exposed to hazardous materials or assisting with emergency response.

Along the way, I’ve had workers tell me they would rather die than seek help before meeting us. Workers who have cried on my shoulder, telling someone for the first time their struggles with addiction. People who came to realize and understand that substance use disorders are a disease and not a personal choice.

Lessons Learned

There are many lessons that I can share, but I believe these are some of the most transcendent:

  1. Evaluation is not about being the subject matter expert. I was not an expert in opioids when I first became involved. In a disaster, and yes, the opioid epidemic is a disaster, circumstances evolve and situations can rapidly change. My background in labor helped me understand and share compassion towards the trainees, who were mainly rank and file workers. Yet, it only helped so far. We needed stakeholders (evaluation partners) with various experiences to contribute to program planning and throughout the evaluation. Evaluation with a participatory approach brings in multiple perspectives for a collective expertise of the subject matter.
  2. We need that participatory approach to include the viewpoints of various backgrounds. Yes, being someone with a labor-based background helped in understanding an occupational safety and health training program. Yet, also important was the diversity of our group, and having someone such as myself, an Indo-Caribbean or person of color, involved. Our community of evaluators and stakeholders involved had a wide range of diversity, which I am confident helped improve our evaluation.
  3. The emphasis of virtual education and training due to the need to be physically distant during the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed many health inequities. Some people may lack adequate access, the literal broadband, to use on-line training. Others may lack the comfort and confidence. When we have to conduct training on-line, we should provide orientations beforehand to ensure trainees are equipped to use the online platform. To promote participatory training, we may want to use breakout rooms, group activities, and creative methods to foster engagement.

Rad Resources

Evaluation of the Opioids and Workplace awareness training can be found on-line for the immediate outcomes and mid-term. The training materials and other resources for the program are fully available online for download.

The American Evaluation Association is hosting Disaster and Emergency Management Evaluation (DEME) Topical Interest Group (TIG) Week. The contributions all this week to AEA365 come from our DEME TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this AEA365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the AEA365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an AEA365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to AEA365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators. The views and opinions expressed on the AEA365 blog are solely those of the original authors and other contributors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the American Evaluation Association, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

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