Winter 2020-2021
Quarterly Newsletter
The Center for Health & Safety Culture is an interdisciplinary center serving communities and organizations through research, training, and support services to cultivate healthy and safe cultures. Under the leadership of our Director, Dr. Nic Ward, our team of seven full-time research staff, two graduate students, nine contributing staff, and five affiliated faculty continues to learn how culture impacts health and safety and how we can work with communities and organizations to transform culture and enhance, improve, and sustain their health and safety. Our partners work in diverse fields including traffic safety, substance misuse, violence prevention, child wellbeing, and public health. While the issues we address are diverse in topic, their cultural prevention approaches overlap as do many of their risk and protective factors. The overlap between the issues allows us to take a comprehensive approach to health and safety, a cultural approach.

Reflecting on 2020
It’s always with a sigh of relief and certain awe that we sit down to reflect upon the varied accomplishments, miles traveled, and new insights and inspirations we have collectively realized at the end of every year. 2020 stood out as a year of great personal and professional challenge and growth for us at the Center, as we are sure it did for most of you as well! Through the challenges of a global pandemic, social unrest due to structural racism and inequality, various natural disasters, and the myriad of other struggles that faced our communities and our world, we are proud to acknowledge that we served our partners and communities through it all with modified processes when necessary and by learning new strategies to keep improving the health and safety of our world through times when it mattered most. We grew! So, we bid farewell to the year 2020 with a sense of gratitude for the opportunities to grow ourselves, our processes, and our research and, most importantly, an eagerness to evolve with our projects as our world requires in 2021.

In 2020, our team:
• Engaged in 34 research projects, 
Guided 32 communities as they engaged in local efforts, 
• Worked with over 19 states, and 
Our research expenditures for 2020 exceeded $1.2 million.
Our work wouldn’t be possible without our exceptional and valued partners, who in 2020 included: 
  • Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values 
  • Battelle Memorial Institute  
  • Camden Family Connection, Camden Community Alliance & Resources, Inc.  
  • City of Mercer Island 
  • Cody Regional Health – Healthy Park County 
  • Futures Without Violence  
  • Heartland for Children  
  • Idaho Department of Transportation  
  • Illuminate Colorado  
  • Minnesota Department of Transportation  
  • Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services  
  • Addictive and Mental Disorders Division  
  • Early Childhood and Family Support Division 
  • Montana Children’s Trust Fund  
  • Montana Department of Transportation and other Departments of Transportation participating in the Traffic Safety Culture Transportation Pooled Fund  
  • Montana State University – Research, Economic Development and Graduate Education (REDGE) COVID19 Support  
  • National Academy of Sciences Behavioral Traffic Safety Cooperative Research Program  
  • National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ)  
  • North Dakota Department of Transportation  
  • Oregon Health Authority – Public Health Division  
  • Ossining Communities That Care, Open Door Family Medical Center  
  • Prevention Project 
  • Rye YMCA – RyeACT Coalition 
  • U.S. Federal Highway Administration - National Center for Rural Road Safety (NCRRS)  
  • U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration  
  • Utah Department of Public Safety  
  • Washakie Prevention Coalition  
  • Washington Traffic Safety Commission 
  • Westbrook Health Services  

2020 Project Highlights, the successful website for MT parents, was relaunched this year with a wealth of new and updated content. Tools for early childhood, ages 0-4, were added as well as for parents (and those in a parenting role) of children in foster care. New podcasts and audio versions of the tools make the website more accessible for busy parents and families. presents a parenting process that equips parents with the skills to bolster their children’s social and emotional development. As both parents and children grow their skills together, a stronger and more intentional relationship is formed between them.
Our partnership with the Utah Department of Public Safety’s Highway Safety Office continued on the Together for Life project. Since 2013, we have been working to increase seat belt use in rural Utah counties. This year we added two new counties, Iron and Uintah, to the seven others we have been working to increase seat belt use. The focus of surveys this year was on the community adults, law enforcement, and key leaders of Iron and Uintah counties.  
Guide service continued among all nine rural counties, including those that have already shown improvement in their seat belt use since the implementation of the Together for Life project, to support their ongoing efforts. New toolkits and media are in the works for new counties in the coming year.
Washakie Prevention Coalition Social Norms Project 
The Center for Health and Safety Culture is excited to develop a social norms marketing campaign to reduce underage drinking among youth in Washakie County, Wyoming. In Partnership with the Washakie Prevention Coalition, the Center will follow the Positive Culture Framework’s 7-Step Communication Process to develop the normative campaign which is set to launch in fall of 2021.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – Traffic Safety Culture and Impaired Driving 
Historically, alcohol has been the drug most often attributed to fatal crashes related to impaired driving. Recently, the prevalence of alcohol use among drivers surveyed on weekend nights has declined significantly. However, the prevalence of cannabis use among drivers has increased over the same period becoming the single most common drug detected in drivers. Cannabis impairs psychomotor functions (e.g., divided attention, lane tracking, reaction time, etc.) that can impair driving ability. As a result, driving under the influence of cannabis (DUIC) can increase the likelihood of causing a fatal crash. DUIC is a deliberate behavior influenced by our shared beliefs about cannabis and traffic safety (“traffic safety culture”). The Center for Health and Safety Culture (CHSC) is working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop tools that can measure and predict the effect of “traffic safety culture” on DUIC behavior. This study is unique by not only examining how traffic safety culture relates to past behavior, but also by identifying specific beliefs that can predict future behavior. By developing tools and analytic methods to help us better understand the role of traffic safety culture in high-risk behaviors such as DUIC, we will be better able to design effect strategies to reduce these forms of fatal crashes and reach the goal of zero fatalities and serious injuries.
Strengthen Montana Families and Keep Children Safe 
In partnership with the Montana Children’s Trust Fund, we developed tools and resources to promote the Children’s Trust Fund; the benefits of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships for children; and the development of plans among parents (and other caregivers) of infants to manage frustration when a baby won’t stop crying as a protective strategy to prevent abusive head trauma. The resources were based on an assessment administered by the Center to assess current beliefs and behaviors of families and caregivers in Montana as well as assessing beliefs among the general population about the Children’s Trust Fund and safe, stable, and nurturing relationships.
COVID-19 Research Measuring Culture of Protective Beliefs and Behaviors
We completed a survey of over 1,000 adults across the U.S. that focused on key beliefs influencing people’s decisions to wear a mask in public spaces and to get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. The study results suggest there are opportunities to grow these behaviors to prevent COVID-19 by growing protective beliefs, bolstering perceived norms, growing perceptions of support, and correcting misperceptions. The survey also focused on sources people trust for getting information about COVID-19. The study results suggest that using trusted sources for sharing information about COVID-19 is an important consideration when making decisions about ways to deliver messages to change beliefs.
Guidance on Messaging to Avoid Reactance 
Montana Department of Transportation and the Traffic Safety Culture Pooled Fund selected the Center to research the prevalence of two phycological phenomena (phycological reactance and moral disengagement) among individuals who engage in risky traffic safety behaviors, i.e., not wearing a seat belt and driving aggressively, and how messaging may be adjusted to mitigate these phenomena. The Center has conducted its own previous research on both these phycological phenomena and how health and safety messaging can be augmented to circumvent reactance in individuals specifically prone to it. This project is taking that research and applying it to guidance on traffic safety messaging to help reach the portion of the public that typically responds to messages about these risky behaviors in a reactant way.
Guidance to Promote Workplace Policies and Family Rules to Reduce Cell Phone Use While Driving and Promote Engaged Driving 
This project is another opportunity the Center has had to work with the Traffic Safety Culture Pooled Fund and Montana Department of Transportation, this time to identify strategies for families and workplaces that foster engaged driving. The goal is to identify resources that other safety agencies could employ or integrate with their existing strategies, specifically targeting family rules and workplace policies, to reduce distracted driving and improve overall traffic safety.
2020 Publications
The Culture of Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis and Alcohol in Washington State (Journal of Applied Social Science - article) 
Otto, J., Ward, N., Finley, K., Bladwin, S., & Grondel, D. (2020) The Culture of Driving Under the Influence of Cannabis and Alcohol in Washington State. Manuscript submitted for publication.  
Traffic Safety Culture and Prosocial Driver Behavior for Safer Vehicle-Bicyclist interactions (Journal of Safety Research - article) 
Ward, N. J., Finley, K., Otto, J., Kack, D., Gleason, R., & Lonsdale, T. (2020). Traffic safety culture and prosocial driver behavior for safer vehicle-bicyclist interactions. Journal of Safety Research.  
Assessing the Impact of Culture: A Systemic Analysis of Culture Interventions and Evaluations in Different Organizational Settings (International Journal of Organization Theory & Behavior - article) 
Austin, E., Ward, N., Otto, J., Green, K., & Watson, H. (2020). Assessing the Impact of Culture: A Systemic Analysis of Culture Interventions and Evaluations in Different Organizational Settings. Manuscript submitted for publication.  

Modeling the system of beliefs that influences willingness and intention to Drive Under the Influence of Cannabis (DUIC) (Accident Analysis and Prevention - article) 
Ward, N., Scott, B., Otto, J., & Finley, K. (2020) Modeling the System of Beliefs That Influence Willingness and Intention of Drive Under the Influence of Cannabis (DUIC). Manuscript submitted for publication. 

Effectively Engaging Stakeholders in a Safe System Approach to Transform Traffic Safety Culture (Safety Compass - article) 
Finley, K., Ward, N., Dively, K., Otto, J., & Fleming-Vogl, K. (2020, Fall). Effectively Engaging Stakeholders in a Safe System Approach to Transform Traffic Safety Culture. Safety Compass Newsletter, 14(3), 16-17.  

Modeling the system of beliefs that affect driving under the influence of cannabis AND alcohol (DUICA) in Washington state (Journal of Drug Issues - article) 
Scott, B., Ward, N., & Otto, J. (2020) Modeling the system of beliefs that affect driving under the influence of cannabis AND alcohol (DUICA) in Washington state. Manuscript submitted for publication. 

The influence of inferred traffic safety culture on traffic safety performance in USA states (1994-2014) (Journal of Safety Research – article) 
Zaman, B., Ward, N.J., & Schell, W. (2020) The influence of inferred traffic safety culture on traffic safety performance in USA states (1994-2014). Manuscript submitted for publication.  

The Effects of Message Threat on Psychological Reactance to Traffic Safety Messaging (TRF: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour – article) 
Ward, N., Townsend, A., Finley, K., & Scott, B. (2020) The effects of message treat on psychological reactance to traffic safety messaging. Manuscript submitted for publication.  

Evaluation of Interventions to Reduce Distracted Driving in Idaho (Final Report) 
Otto, J., Ward, N., & Hildebrand-Hall, K. (2020) Evaluation of Interventions to Reduce Distracted Driving in Idaho (Final Report). Idaho Transportation Department.  

Applying Traffic Safety Culture in Minnesota - A Pilot Project (Final Report) 
Finley, K., Otto, J., Dively, K., & Ward, N. (2020) Applying Traffic Safety Culture in Minnesota - A Pilot Project. Minnesota Department of Transportation. Retrieved from  

Center for Health & Safety Culture. (2019) Together for Life Report: Increasing Seat Belt Use in Rural Utah (Final Report). Utah Department of Public Safety.

2020 Presentations
Oklahoma Department of Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services Prevention and Recovery Conference 11/17/2020 Annmarie McMahill 
Montana Association for the Education of Young Children Conference 10/16/2020 Jay Otto, on behalf of Child Care Connections Montana 
National Center for Rural Road Safety’s Inaugural Rural Road Safety Awareness Week (RRSAW) 10/2/2020 Nic Ward, role of traffic safety culture and driver behaviors that can decrease crash fatalities in rural communities 
Great Beginnings Great Families Conference 8/18/2020 Annmarie McMahill, on behalf of MT DPHHS 
40th annual Montana Association Road County Supervisors (MARCS) conference 4/2/2020 Kelly Green, “Safety Culture in the Rural Environment” 
Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values 1/31/2020 Katie Dively, overview of Positive Culture Framework 
Mercer Island Youth and Family Services 1/13.2020 Jay Otto, workshop on Three Lessons to initiate strategic planning process for staff

2020 Webinars
Applying Traffic Safety Culture – Sharing Survey Data about the Culture of Impaired Driving in Park Rapids, Minnesota 2/20/2020 by Kari Finley and Jay Otto 
Surveys were conducted to better understand the culture (values, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors) of impaired driving among community adults, students, law enforcement, and workplaces in Park Rapids, Minnesota. This webinar reviewed the data and the discussed next steps for the Applying Traffic Safety Culture Project in Minnesota. 
The Center for Health and Safety Culture: Who We Are and How We Support Efforts to Improve Health and Safety 3/18/2020 by Katie Dively and Jay Otto 
This webinar introduced the Center for Health and Safety Culture, our diverse staff, the Positive Culture Framework for improving health and safety, and the multitude of services offered to support communities and organizations in their efforts to transform culture. At the Center, we understand the challenges of cultural transformation and use the latest science to address complex social issues to improve health and safety in a sustainable way. The webinar reviewed the organization’s logic model, framework, and what we can do to help your organization and community reach their health and safety goals. 
Traffic Safety Culture Messaging 3/25/2020 by Nic Ward 
This webinar featured information on the design of effective traffic safety messages based on an understanding of traffic safety culture. The webinar summarized different forms of traffic safety culture message including social norms. The webinar also discussed the importance of the message “frame” to be positive (rather than fear-based); namely, those that grow self-efficacy and align with audience values. Finally, the webinar discussed some aspects of message design to overcome audience resistance. Together, traffic safety culture messages can be more effective in changing behavior and be more acceptable to audience communities. More information and the webinar recording can be found here 
Together for Life Utah: Reducing Disparities Between Urban and Rural Seat Belt Use Rates 4/22/2020 by Katie Dively and Jay Otto 
In 2013, the Highway Safety Office of the Utah Department of Public Safety engaged the Center for Health and Safety Culture in a multi-year pilot project to reduce the significant disparities in seat belt use rates between Utah’s urban areas (with observed seat belt use rates at about 85%) and rural areas (with observed seat belt use rates as low as 55%). This webinar explained how the Together for Life Project promoted seat belt use in 7 rural counties by bolstering family rules, workplace rules, and bystander engagement (i.e., getting individuals to ask others to wear a seat belt) to increase both self-reported and observed seat belt use. 
Three Lessons to Facilitate Transforming Health and Safety Culture 6/17/2020 by Jay Otto 
Transforming culture in workplaces, schools, and communities to improve health and safety is a complex challenge. Jay Otto, Principal Scientist with the Center for Health and Safety Culture, will lead a webinar sharing three lessons the Center has learned over the past 20 years of working collaboratively to transform culture and address complex health- and safety-related issues like traffic safety, the misuse of substances, and violence (including child maltreatment). Understanding these lessons guides more effective communication, fosters greater engagement, and ultimately leads to greater effectiveness in addressing the complex, adaptive challenges of health and safety. 
COVID-19:Cultural Factors Influencing Wearing a Mask and Getting a Vaccine 12/16/2020 by Kari Finley 
This webinar discussed results of a recent survey of over 1,000 adults across the U.S. to understand key beliefs influencing people’s decisions to wear a mask in public spaces and get a vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

2020 Trainings
Virtual Positive Culture Framework Training 
At the beginning of the year, we were able to travel to training locales and present in-person trainings for attendees before travel ceased with the pandemic and we shifted our training style to virtual. The following include in-person and virtually hosted training locations of 2020: 
  • Mercer Island, WA 
  • Indianapolis, IN 
  • Bozeman, MT 
  • Grand Island, NE 
  • Great Falls, MT 
  • Helena, MT 
  • Missoula, MT 
  • West Virginia  

Jay Otto and Katie Dively hosted the Center’s first virtual Positive Culture Framework trainings in October and are poised to host several more in the coming year. Forty-five Prevention Specialists in Montana were trained in the Positive Culture Framework and to build their capacity to reduce substance use across the State. 

Jay Otto virtually trained staff at Westbrook Health Services in Parkersburg, West Virginia in November and he and Katie Dively will host the Center’s Annual Positive Culture Framework training in two offerings, one in January and another in February. These training opportunities reached capacity quickly and will be offered again later in 2021.

2020 Staff Highlights
Jay Otto and Katie Dively conducted a training for the WA Traffic Safety Commission where they were covering how to apply theories of change and logic models, which are not particularly considered exciting and jazzy content. However, the sentiment from the participants at the training included the following: 
  • Excited 
  • Excited and grateful!! 
  • Confident, validated
  • I'm into it! 
  • Optimistic 
  • Excited 
  • Hopeful   
Jay and Katie rocked this training, as they normally do. And we celebrate them and our attendees and partners who bring so much energy and purpose to the work we do.
CHSC staff members Annmarie McMahill and Katie Dively completed The Center for Appreciative Inquiry’s virtual Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training in July. This approach seeks to build on what’s already working within individuals, organizations, or communities to bring about positive, sustainable change. The two-week training provided Annmarie and Katie with an opportunity to collaborate with other leaders across North America who are interested in using appreciative inquiry to reach their goals. This approach continues to be a foundational component of many CHSC projects. To learn more about appreciative inquiry, visit The Center for Appreciative Inquiry.

CHSC staff entered new media production territory this year recording our first ever podcasts for the project. Cactus Productions, our preferred media production partner, assisted Annmarie McMahill while she hosted and interviewed parenting experts trained in social and emotional development of children. Annmarie said she enjoyed recording the podcasts and is excited for opportunities to do more.
Looking Forward
As we tell the communities and organizations with whom we work and is central to the framework under which we operate, “We must approach the issues we face with a balance of concern and hope.” In every situation, community, and struggle, remember the positive exists and is worth growing! With an appreciative perspective, even the toughest of health and safety problems can be collectively re-envisioned, improved, and even transformed. At the Center, we commit to the new year with this sense of hopeful resolve. We are grateful for the growth and the lessons we’ve learned; we research and approach health and safety issues with truest concern; and we cling to the hope that lies within the positive we can grow.
We are seeking a Graduate Research Assistant.
The Center for Health and Safety (CHSC) at Montana State University studies health and safety culture in organizations and communities. CHSC is affiliated with the graduate program in Industrial and Management Systems Engineering (IMSE). CHSC has a funded Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) position available for qualified students interested in research about behavior change models for health and safety. The annual stipend for the GRA position is approximately $25,000. Students applying to the graduate program will automatically be considered for this GRA. Students from all relevant disciplinary backgrounds are encouraged to apply. For additional questions about this opportunity with CHSC, please contact Professor Nicholas John Ward.
For more information on our services or if you’re interested in partnering with us on a research project, visit or contact us at
Center for Health and Safety Culture |