HEALTHCARE AND SOCIAL ASSISTANCE
An estimated 18.6 million people are employed within the Healthcare and Social Assistance (HCSA) sector. Workers are at risk for illness and injuries because of long hours, changing shifts, lifting and repetitive tasks, violence, stress, and exposures to infectious diseases and hazardous chemicals.
The HCSA sector comprises establishments providing health care and social assistance for individuals. The sector includes both health care and social assistance because it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the boundaries of these two activities. The industries in this sector are arranged on a continuum starting with those establishments providing medical care exclusively, continuing with those providing health care and social assistance, and finally finishing with those providing only social assistance. The services provided by establishments in this sector are delivered by trained professionals. All industries in the sector share this commonality of process, namely, labor inputs of health practitioners or social workers with the requisite expertise. Many of the industries in the sector are defined based on the educational degree held by the practitioners included in the industry.
The mission of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) research program for the HCSA sector is to eliminate occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities among individuals working in this sector through a focused program of research and prevention. The program strives to fulfill its mission through the following principles:
- High-Quality Research: NIOSH will continually strive for high quality research and prevention activities that will lead to reductions in occupational injuries and illnesses among workers in the HCSA sector.
- Practical Solutions: The NIOSH program for the HCSA sector is committed to the development of practical solutions to the complex problems that cause occupational diseases, injuries, and fatalities among workers in this sector. One source of practical recommendations is the NIOSH Health Hazard Evaluation (HHE) program. NIOSH conducts HHEs at individual worksites to find out whether there are health hazards to employees caused by exposures or conditions in the workplace.
- Partnerships: We recognize that collaborative efforts in partnership with labor, industry, government, and other stakeholders are usually the best means of achieving successful outcomes. Fostering these partnerships is a cornerstone of the NIOSH program for the HCSA sector.
- Research to Practice: We believe that our research only realizes its true value when put into practice. Every research project within the NIOSH program for the HCSA sector formulates a strategy to promote the transfer and translation of research findings into prevention practices and products that will be adopted in the workplace.
We apply these important principles both to intramural research that is conducted within NIOSH and to extramural research that is funded by NIOSH but conducted by others. Our priorities are guided by our core mission and by considerations such as surveillance data and stakeholder input that document the need for research. To assure high quality, our projects are subjected to rigorous scientific peer review. To assure coordination, we actively communicate across organizational lines and with our extramural partners. In all our efforts, we seek to optimize the quality, relevance, and impact of NIOSH-funded activities in the HCSA sector.
Healthcare has always been an important priority area for NIOSH. Together with the rest of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), NIOSH has worked to prevent occupational transmission of infectious diseases to healthcare personnel (HCP). Especially since the advent of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) epidemic in the late 1980s, prevention of needlestick injuries and transmission of bloodborne pathogens (BBPs) has been a key priority. Encouraging adoption of engineering controls, such as needleless and safe needle systems has been a major focus, as has been vaccination against Hepatitis B. NIOSH has also worked together with the rest of CDC to develop multidisciplinary guidelines to prevent airborne transmission of diseases such as tuberculosis (TB). NIOSH has worked to prevent back and other musculoskeletal injuries, another important problem of the HCSA sector. Stress and fatigue associated with organization of work has been an important priority, as has been the elimination of violence in the workplace. Reducing hazardous chemical exposures, such as to chemotherapeutic and anesthetic agents, has also been an important concern. Reductions in incidence of latex allergy have been an important achievement.
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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