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Workplace Health Is Public Health

Categories: Economics, Total Worker Health

It’s National Public Health Week.  Those of us who work in workplace safety and health know that workplace health is an integral part of public health. While “Creating a Healthy Workplace” is one of the five themes of National Public Health Week, the role of workplace health in Public Health is not always clear to the general public. If you were asked to make the case for or provide examples of the importance of workplace safety and health in the broader context of public health, what would you say? We would like to hear how you explain to your colleagues, friends, and family that workplace safety and health IS public health.

Making the Case for Paid Sick Leave

Categories: Economics, Manufacturing, Total Worker Health

Does it make economic sense for employers to offer or expand paid sick leave benefits to their employees? A new NIOSH study published in the American Journal of Public Health reported that workers with access to paid sick leave were 28% less likely overall to suffer nonfatal occupational injuries than workers without access to paid sick leave. Workers in high-risk occupations and industry sectors, such as construction, manufacturing, agriculture, and health care and social assistance, appeared to benefit most from paid sick leave. From these results we concluded that introducing or expanding employee access to paid sick leave might help businesses reduce the incidence of occupational injuries. This could, in turn, reduce costs to employers. To our knowledge, this is the first U.S. study to examine this issue empirically.

Getting Closer to Understanding the Economic Burden of Occupational Injury and Illness

Categories: Economics

A recently published landmark paper by J. Paul Leigh (Milbank Quarterly 2011 89 (6):728-772 ) makes a significant contribution to understanding the economic burden of occupational illness and injury.  The paper entitled “Economic Burden of Occupational Injury and Illness in the United States” shows that the annual direct and indirect costs are at least $250 billion. This amount exceeds the individual cost of cancer, coronary heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

As Leigh notes, the cost of injury, illness, and death from these other diseases are generally easier to assess because they require a small number of primary data sources, typically 1 to 4.  In contrast, estimates of the burden of occupational injury and illness are more difficult to accomplish because they rely on far more primary and secondary sources of data on more than 18 diseases and a substantial number of injury types.  In fact, Leigh used more than 40 data sets in conducting this rigorous analysis.

 
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