Sherry Baron is a Professor and a faculty member of the Barry Commoner Center for Health and the Environment at Queens College. She is also an affiliate professor at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. She is a physician and public health researcher who before coming to Queens College in 2014 spent 25 years as a researcher at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her research focuses on understanding the role of work on health and well-being from a social determinants of health perspective. Her research aims to document the magnitude of disproportionate exposure to work hazards for low-wage, immigrant and precarious workers and the barriers they face in accessing safer work practices and programs. Using a community-based participatory research approach her research has also demonstrated that community engaged programs provide workers and communities with access to knowledge, resources and collective action that can reduce health inequities. As an interdisciplinary researcher she uses mixed quantitative and qualitative research methods.
Her current research focuses on low income and immigrant communities in NYC and explores how environmental exposures both at the workplace and in the community can impact health. She led a research effort following Superstorm Sandy that documented the health impact of that disaster on Latino workers who provided clean up and reconstruction efforts. She also designed a community engaged intervention effort to raise the profile of local immigrant community-based organizations in the NYC disaster preparedness planning process. This work led to ongoing funding to assist community-based Latino worker centers in developing their own capacity to conduct effective Spanish- language training to inform workers about their rights to safe workplaces. This work is now supported by the NY State Taskforce To End Worker Exploitation and the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences in collaboration with the United Steelworkers labor union.
Baron was also the recipient of a grant from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to establish a collaborating center of the Workplace Health Research Network with New York University School of Medicine and the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy. Under this grant she studied the impact of the NYC paid sick leave law on restaurant workers. She also conducted a qualitative focus group study in collaboration with a community based organization, Make the Road NY (MRNY), to explore workers’ perceptions of their health and well-being in and outside of work. As part of this effort, she designed a module on the impact of work on health and well-being for a community health worker training program run by MRNY.
Her new research efforts utilize citizen science approaches to build awareness about environmental exposures among communities in NYC. This work began with building a smart phone application for workers to capture information about and photographs of dangerous working conditions. In collaboration with the air quality monitoring program at the Barry Commoner Center, work is now underway to develop citizen science air quality monitoring projects with community-based environmental justice organizations. Another new initiative will involve Latino domestic workers in documenting their exposure to toxic cleaning chemicals at work.
Baron’s teaching includes courses on public health for undergraduates at Queens College both through Urban Studies and as part of the Macaulay Honors Program. She also directs the research of doctoral students at the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.