Workers' Health On the Line: A Digital Intervention to Address the Fundamental Causes of Disease in the Low-Wage Retail Sector

The researchers are conducting a randomized control trial (RCT) among people working in low-wage, precarious retail jobs to evaluate the impact of a new form of online organizing – facilitated discussion groups – on physical and emotional well-being, and health-related workplace engagement. Using a customized version of the mobile app WorkIt, developed as a resource for low-wage workers by the non-profit organization United for Respect, the researchers will test the relative effect of a facilitated discussion group compared to an online group that receives health-related information only. Results from this study will help to evaluate the utility of this form of online community for building a culture of health by fostering shared values (shifting mindsets and expectations, stimulating civic engagement, and cultivating a sense of community) and improving health outcomes among a vulnerable population.


Health & well-being: self-reported physical wellbeing; sleep (amount and quality); exercise (steps per day); psychological distress

Other: Sense of community; collective efficacy (participation in online petitions, filing complaints with an employer, reaching out to coworkers about work-related health issues); feelings of solidarity; generalized altruism


The researchers are using a randomized control trial (RCT) design, in which participants are randomly assigned to one online community of 200 participants each (accessed through a customized app), where each online community is in one of two experimental conditions: a relational facilitation condition or an information only condition. The researchers are complementing this with a mixed-methods observational study of the workplace discussion groups to explore relations between physical and emotional wellbeing and a) levels of online participation; b) changes in language use; and c) network positions in the discussion group.

Young woman looking at her phone
Grantee and Partner organizations

The American Assembly at Columbia University

Grant status
In Progress
Principal investigators
Adam Reich, PhD
Hana Shepherd, PhD
Start date
Award amount
36 months

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