The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) called on Health and Human Services Secretary-designee Tom Daschle to address the critical link between the health, safety and productivity of America’s workers and the long-term stability of its health care system and economy as he begins work on the Obama administration’s health care agenda
In a Jan. 8 letter to Daschle, ACOEM President Robert R. Orford, M.D., said the nation’s policy makers must put a greater emphasis on ensuring the health of the workforce in order to meet the twin challenges of an aging population and the rise of chronic disease in the United States.
“The transition of 80 million baby boomers into retirement age and a documented increase in chronic disease represent the “silver tsunami” that will seriously impact the nation’s ability to remain productive and competitive in the global economy,” Orford said, calling on Daschle to focus on preventive health measures aimed at workers that could range from screening and early detection programs to health education, nutritional support, and immunizations.
ACOEM’s workforce-centered health reform plan is built on four principles that include investing in preventive health programs for workers; creating new linkages between the workplace, homes and communities to reinforce good health; providing financial incentives to promote preventive health behaviors among workers; and taking steps to ensure that more health professionals are trained in preventive health strategies that can be applied in the workplace.
Orford urged Daschle to incorporate ACOEM’s four principles into the Obama health care agenda. “A public investment in the health and productivity of working-age populations through a new preventive-based paradigm centered in the workplace is a public health imperative,” he said.
In recent years, ACOEM has supported a research agenda that increasingly has demonstrated the link between health and productivity in the workforce. It launched the Health and Productivity Management Center to help employers develop workforce health strategies and recently hosted its first ever Workforce Health and Productivity Summit. National workforce health experts participating in the summit released a set of recommendations on health and productivity that are available on ACOEM’s Web site at http://www.acoem.org/hpsummit.aspx.