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Program Description

A major development in the management of NIOSH research programs is an emphasis on economic sectors using North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes as an organizational structure to understand and meet work place health and safety needs for the nation. This structure promises to place an important developing emphasis on how the products of research measurably benefit the nation’s work force.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are significant health and safety issues for which challenges and opportunities exist to better understand objective causes and effects, economic impacts, and effective strategies to prevent and treat these complicated disorders.

Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries or disorders of the muscles, nerves, tendons, joints, cartilage, an disorders of the nerves, tendons, muscles and supporting structures of the upper and lower limbs, neck, and lower back that are caused, precipitated or exacerbated by sudden exertion or prolonged exposure to physical factors such as repetition, force, vibration, or awkward posture. (This definition specifically excludes those conditions such as fractures, contusions, abrasions, and lacerations resulting from sudden physical contact of the body with external objects.)

More information about MSDs can be found at the NIOSH Website topic page Musculoskeletal Disorders and Ergonomics.

The NIOSH Cross-Sector Program for Musculoskeletal Disorders falls under a program development activity that acknowledges the relevance of key scientific and engineering disciplines that cut across the economic-based sectors. These Cross-Sector Programs will develop emphases that reflect research needs in a number of NAICS Sector Programs. For example, MSDs are significant issues in manufacturing, health care, construction, and other industry sectors.

The mission of the NIOSH Cross-Sector Program for Musculoskeletal Disorders is to reduce the burden of work-related MSDs through a focused program of research and prevention that protects workers from MSDs, helps management mitigate related risks and liabilities, and helps practitioners improve the efficacy of workplace interventions. The program strives to fulfill its mission through:

  • High Quality Research: NIOSH will continually strive for high quality research and prevention activities that will lead to reductions in work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
  • Practical Solutions: The NIOSH Cross-Sector Program for Musculoskeletal Disorders is committed to the development of practical solutions to the complex problems associated with work-related musculoskeletal disorders.
  • 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 Cross-Sector Program for Musculoskeletal Disorders.
  • Research to Practice (r2p): The Musculoskeletal Disorders Cross-Sector Program (Acumen) contributes to a strategy of transferring and translating research findings into prevention practices and products that will be adopted in occupational settings. This contribution occurs through international research, technical assistance, capacity building, and information sharing.

Acumen™ — The NIOSH Cross-Sector Program for MSDs

Since late 2005, several steps have been taken toward the development of a new strategic identity and an evaluation of current research priorities. Input from various stakeholders has been obtained from public town-hall meetings, professional conferences, published recommendations, and meetings with professional and industry organizations. In addition, several workshops have been conducted with internal and external experts to develop a strategy that will provide safety for workers, solutions for management, and support for practitioners through high quality research. These workshops resulted in the formation of Acumen™ to implement this strategy.

Acumen is comprised of a dedicated team of NIOSH investigators that strives to be the foremost worldwide resource for strategic research directions and trusted multi-disciplinary research that empower practical, actionable solutions to work-related MSDs.

Because MSDs are among the most important research issues in terms of frequency and impact on both personal lives and the economy, across all industry sectors, Acumen will strive to serve workers, workplace owners, and a variety of practitioners, and product developers who directly contribute to reduction of workplace MSDs. To serve these stakeholders, Acumen will: (1) provide leadership in setting directions, building trust, and growing commitments in all stakeholders, (2) deliver, through high-quality research, a strong, multi-faceted resource of knowledge for reducing MSDs, (3) support the development of products that meet stakeholder needs, and (4) impact how people and organizations manage workplaces to prevent MSDs.

A key leadership role is development of the NIOSH Research Agenda for MSDs. Acumen has set five strategic research goals (surveillance, exposure, causes, effects, and intervention) and a range of intermediate goals, each of which involves specific prioritized research tasks. Fulfilling these research goals will tap the broad strengths of NIOSH, including biochemistry, biomechanics, economics, engineering, epidemiology, occupational medicine, molecular biology, physiology, psychology, and toxicology.

Acumen sets the NIOSH MSD Research Agenda, builds in-depth understanding of musculoskeletaldisorders through multi-disciplinary research, and creates workplace impact via interventions and tools that reduce the magnitude and severity of MSDs.

As stated above, the mission of Acumen reflects its very broad commitments to workers, management, and practitioners.

Thus the value promise:

Safety for workers. Solutions for management. Support for practitioners.

Risks Resolved!


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  • Page last reviewed: December 18, 2012
  • Page last updated: December 18, 2012 The U.S. Government's Official Web PortalDepartment of Health and Human Services
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