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NIOSH Respiratory Diseases Research Program

Evidence Package for the National Academies' Review 2006-2007

NIOSH Programs > Respiratory Diseases > Evidence Package > 8. Surveillance Activities

8. Surveillance Activities

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Public health surveillance is the ongoing systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of health data for purposes of improving health and safety. Key to public health surveillance is the dissemination and use of data to improve health. Occupational health surveillance can be viewed as the tracking of occupational injuries, illnesses, hazards, and exposures. In addition to suggesting hypotheses for research, occupational surveillance data are used to guide efforts to improve worker safety and health, and to monitor trends and progress over time (

NIOSH plays a key role in the surveillance of occupational hazards, diseases, and injuries, complementing surveillance activities carried out by many state health departments, the NCHS and other federal agencies, including the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the OSHA, and MSHA. Overall guidance is provided by the NIOSH/RDRP Surveillance Strategic Plan (A8-1).

 In a broad sense, RDRP surveillance includes both population- or group-based activities and individual-based activities. The latter, often referred to as worker screening and monitoring functions, are undertaken for the detection of early disease in individuals followed by intervention to prevent further progression exacerbation.

Tracking occupational illnesses has been an integral part of NIOSH since its creation by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, and RDRP surveillance systems focused on respiratory diseases became well established in the 1990s. RDRP’s worker monitoring program for underground coal miners dates back to passage of the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969.

This chapter discusses the RDRP contribution to surveillance for occupational lung disease. RDRP surveillance outputs (1995-2006) are numerous (75 peer-reviewed publications, 11 NIOSH numbered documents, 16 reviews and book chapters, 29 conference proceedings and abstracts, and 164 other presentations), as evidenced by a listing appended to this document (A8-2) (pp28-43 also contains statistics on mailings and “Web-hits” and other products related to state-base surveillance). These RDRP surveillance products function both as planning inputs and as measurements of outcome for the rest of RDRP.

182. NIOSH [2006]. NIOSH Safety and Health Topic page: Surveillance. [].