AIHA: Workplace Exposures Should Be Included in National Prevention Strategy

In a Jan. 11 letter to the National Prevention Council, the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) commented on the National Prevention and Health Promotion Strategy, raising “deep concerns” about the lack of consideration for medical conditions caused by workplace exposures.

The National Prevention Strategy is an initiative designed to bring together various industry sectors and public and private partners to focus the nation on wellness promotion and disease prevention. The National Prevention Council accepted comments on a draft framework for the strategy in late 2010 and has since developed a set of draft recommendations.

“AIHA offers our support for the overall goals of the Strategy – specific recommendations that bring a focus to the prevention of disease and promotion of wellness to the forefront. These recommendations – overarching priorities with a focus on communities – will greatly improve health and wellness in the United States,” wrote AIHA President Michael T. Brandt, Dr.PH, CIH, PMP.

Brandt added, however, that AIHA was concerned that workplace exposures that could cause illness were not taken into consideration. According to AIHA, a 60-year-old person who has spent 40 years in the workplace now may face serious chronic disease that could be attributed to workplace exposures. Some of those conditions include:

  • Musculoskeletal disorders;
  • Hearing loss;
  • Lung diseases evidenced on x-ray;
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease;
  • Acute chemical poisoning;
  • Cancer; and
  • Allergic sensitization.

In its comments, AIHA explained that the medical and disability costs of these occupational illnesses and injuries “place a significant financial burden on our larger health care system, and on injured workers and their families.” AIHA therefore advised that the strategy should include a Strategic Direction 11 to address occupational health.

“Recommendation/s to promote healthy workplaces (e.g., free from workplace hazards that impact both the short- and long-term health of workers) need to be developed to address occupational health,” Brandt wrote. “The workplace is a critical forum for health promotion and disease prevention.”

Finally, AIHA requested that when members are appointed to the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion and Integrative and Public Health, an industrial hygiene expert should be included to advocate for injury and illness prevention initiatives in the workplace.

“The nation needs to remember at all times, that most adults spend a quarter of the year in a workplace, and that for many, this is a principal source of their chronic disease risk,” Brandt wrote.

To view the draft National Prevention Strategy, download the PDF here.

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