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Ariel Avgar

The Research of Ariel Avgar: Understanding The Critical Relationship Between Labor Relations and Healthcare Outcomes

By Suraj Parikh, Editor, Scheinman Institute Newsletter and Blog

Ariel Avgar, David M. Cohen Professor of Labor Relations, ILR Senior Associate Dean for Outreach and Sponsored Research, and Director, Center for Applied Research on Work (CAROW) is conducting impactful research regarding labor and employment relations in the healthcare field. His work is contributing to a better understanding of how working conditions of healthcare workers can be improved.

In collaboration with Dr. Madeline Sterling, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director, Initiative on Home Care Work in CAROW at Weill Cornell Medicine, and Dr. Nicola Dell, Associate Professor at the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, Avgar have been conducting research supported by the National Science Foundation examining the working conditions of home care workers. This research comes at a time when the healthcare industry is emphasizing the concept of aging in place, which involves the shifting of patient care away from hospitals with an increasing push for delivery in patients’ homes.

This approach relies heavily on home care and direct care workers who are often underrecognized and underpaid. These workers provide both emotional and physical care, yet their voices are often unheard. The findings of this body of research suggest that there are a range of benefits associated with increased attention to home care workers’ working conditions, including training.

Additionally, while unionization rates among home care workers have remained relatively steady over the past decade or so, unionized home care workers earn more, have better benefits, including health insurance and pensions, providing strong support for the relationship between union status and improved working conditions.

In addition to studying home care workers Avgar, along with Adam Seth Litwin, Associate Professor at ILR, has also conducted research on the impact of the outsourcing of the work of cleaners at hospitals. Their findings reveal that hospitals that outsource cleaners have more hospital-acquired infections. This demonstrates that high road employment practices lead to better patient outcomes. While the focus of policymakers, researchers, and practitioners is often on doctors and nurses, cleaners and other low wage workers play a pivotal role in enhancing patient safety. Better employment practices across occupational groups are associated with better patient care.

Professor Avgar’s research has been supported with the generous financial contributions of Douglas Wigdor, a member of the Scheinman Institute’s Board of Advisors in addition to funding from the National Science Foundation.