Injury as a major public health problem, although noted as early as the 1930s, was not widely accepted by the public health community until the 1980s. Over recent decades, there have been a number of strategic plans developed to prevent and control occupational injuries. These plans have been remarkably consistent in that many of the same recommendations surfaced despite different planners from different eras. The recommendations also generally align with the steps in the public health approach. Although recognition of the relevance of the public health approach to traumatic occupational injury came decades ago, significant barriers have inhibited its full implementation. Today, these barriers are being overcome, due to improved surveillance, increased collaborations among disciplines, increasing partnerships with industry, improved prevention evaluation methods, cost analysis models, and increasing funding. Of course, many of the experiences in the United States are paralleled in other countries in the Western world, and even in some developing countries. Substantial progress has been made in recent years in identifying problems and developing solutions, in addressing the recommendations of decades of planning, and of building the scientific foundation necessary to guide prevention. As a result, traumatic occupational injury research must begin to increase focus on bringing the public health process full circle, including the implementation and evaluation of preventive strategies and interventions. Now, the final steps of the process need our attention-evaluating the effectiveness of these solutions and then getting knowledge and products onto the shop floor, the construction site, and the farm, the convenience store, and the delivery truck; getting effective prevention into the workplace. Now is the time to close the loop, from science to prevention.
Nancy Stout, NIOSH, Division of Safety and Research, M/S H-1900, 1095 Willowdale Road, Morgantown, WV 26505-2888, USA