Megan McHugh

Associate Professor
Organization
Center for Healthcare Studies, Northwestern University

Megan McHugh, PhD, is an associate professor in the Center for Health Care Studies, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine. Dr. McHugh is a health services researcher, educator, and evaluator with expertise in conducting complex, multi-site evaluations of quality improvement programs and health policies.  

Dr. McHugh also directs the Center’s program in Manufacturing and Health, which aims to generate evidence to improve the health of manufacturing employees and communities, and reduce health care costs for companies.

Previously, Dr. McHugh was research director at the Health Research & Educational Trust of the American Hospital Association and Senior Program Officer at the Institute of Medicine. 

Projects

Numerous studies have shown that 12-hour shifts, rotating shifts, and unpredictable work schedules are associated with greater risk of chronic health conditions including mental illness, cardiovascular disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, and obesity. Although large manufacturing companies recognize the risks, they cite several arguments in favor of maintaining them, including the 24/7 production schedule, and in some cases, employee preferences for long shifts to maximize days off and pay.

Evidence

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Despite extensive research showing that shift work compromises employee health, jobs that require work outside the traditional daytime hours of 8:00 AM to 6:00 PM have become ubiquitous across economically developed nations. Employers enact work scheduling policies based on the needs of company stakeholders and without evidence of the effect of shift work on health care costs, even though the companies ultimately bear the majority of those costs. Researchers Megan McHugh, Dustin D. French, Mary M. Kwasny, Claude R. Maechling, and Jane L. Holl examined the additional health care costs incurred by two large manufacturing companies due to their shift work requirements in this brief published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

Jobs that require work outside the traditional daytime hours of approximately 8 AM to 6 PM have become ubiquitous across economically developed nations, but extensive research shows that shift work and long work hours may compromise employee health. Although employers recognize the potential harmful effects of shift work, many argue in favor of maintaining it, citing the nature of the work requiring a 24/7 schedule (e.g., public safety), maximization of production capacity in response to consumer demand, and in some cases, employee preference for long shifts to maximize days off and pay. In recent publications, P4A researcher Megan McHugh, doctoral student Adovich Rivera, and their colleagues from Northwestern’s Manufacturing and Health Research Program provide evidence on how shift work affects the incidence of chronic illness and overall worker well-being.<.p>