Photo of people talking in small group discussions at 2018 Symposium

Photo of Nic Ward Presenting at 2018 Symposium

The Center for Health and Safety Culture is committed to working with communities to transform culture so that healthy and safe behaviors are sustainable. To be effective using culture as a basis for promoting health and safety across multiple domains, health and safety practitioners and advocates need to be aware of current research and best practices in transforming culture. Recognizing this need, the Center for Health and Safety Culture's Symposium intends to support the evolution of science and practice in creating a positive culture to sustain safe and healthy choices.

The Symposium is an event designed in a way that allows attendees to have the opportunity to engage in group discussion, listen to presentations in multiple formats, and create knowledge together. Although there are many unique definitions of a symposium, they all include gaining knowledge through interaction, conversation, and partnerships.

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The 2018 Symposium was held in Bozeman, Montana at the historic downtown Baxter Hotel. The theme was, "Explore How Positive Culture Improves Health and Safety." We explored concepts of positive culture, communication, leadership, safety citizenship, social and emotional skills, and other fascinating topics. Attendees shared best practice in methods of cultural transformation, learned about the latest science regarding the relationship of culture with health and safety, and fostered new partnerships, knowledge, and insights.


The 2018 Symposium hosted just under 50 professionals and advocates from many health and safety fields including traffic safety, substance misuse, violence prevention, and marketing, among others. The event was kept small to allow for rich conversation and application to issues attendees faced in their everyday work. Attendees traveled all the way from the Northern Mariana Islands to Maryland and from Canada to Florida. 

Day One Presentations

During this opening session, we created context for a rich, open, and engaging environment to explore how positive culture improves health and safety.
In-Depth Session
In this session, we began by introducing a strong foundation for the Symposium by exploring the meaning of "culture" and its importance to sustaining healthy and safe behaviors. Together, we explored ways to understand culture and its influence on behavioral choices within the social environment. Examining culture allows us to connect with existing values and shift certain beliefs and attitudes to reduce risky behaviors and grow protective behaviors, which we define as a "positive culture."
In-Depth Session
This session engaged attendees in developing a deeper understanding of how communication can be used as a catalyst to improve health and safety. Communication includes a variety of methods ranging from mass media campaigns to leveraging the power of individual voices.
Emerging Ideas
Psychological reactance is a negative reaction triggered by a perception that something or someone is impinging on an individual's autonomy and freedoms. This reaction can impede efforts to improve health and safety on many issues including traffic safety ("don't tell me to wear a seat belt"), prevention ("don't tell me what to do"), and violence ("don't tell me how to act"). During this session, we introduced the concept and ways to quiet the negative responses.

Day Two Presentations

In-Depth Session
This session introduced safety citizenship, which seeks to involve the majority of people engaging in safe behaviors to influence the smaller group engaging in risky behaviors. Safety citizenship requires creating a culture that values "our safety" and empowers early identification of potential risk, being proactive, and bystander engagement.
Emerging Ideas
Often, efforts to improve health and safety focus on reaching children in schools. While this strategy is important, it neglects the need to address the behaviors of adults. Workplaces provide an important opportunity to engage adults about health and safety behaviors. This session explored interventions designed for workplaces as opportunities to expand our portfolio of strategies to improve health and safety.
In-Depth Session
Social and emotional skills include caring about others, making good decisions, behaving ethically and responsibly, developing positive relationships, and avoiding negative behaviors. Bolstering social and emotional skills can improve a wide variety of safety and health-related outcomes. During this session, we explored the important and powerful effects of social and emotional learning to improve health and safety.
Emerging Ideas
Many people in need of services do not access them because of perceived stigma. Understanding stigma and methods to reduce it are important for our efforts to grow a culture that supports health and safety for everyone. In this session, we explored the meaning of stigma, how it is manifested, and ways to address it.

Day Three Presentations

In-Depth Session
Improving health and safety and transforming culture are acts of leadership. But what leadership skills are necessary to support and sustain effective actions? This session explored different leadership skills that are important to cultural transformation applicable to a variety of settings.
During this closing session, we engaged in purposeful dialogue to gather the wisdom shared over the previous days and identify opportunities and needs for the future.
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