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Occupational and environmental health surveillance.

Souza K; Davis L; Shire J
Occupational and environmental health: recognizing and preventing disease and injury, 6th edition. Levy BS, Wegman DH, Baron SL, Sokas RK, eds. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011 Jan; :55-68
How and where are workers injured or made ill on the job? How many workers are at risk of serious work-related health problems, and where do they work? How are environmental hazards changing over time and space, and how might they be contributing to disease? Public health surveillance, in response to these and many other questions, provides answers that ultimately lead to prevention. Surveillance is "the ongoing systematic collection, analysis. and interpretation of health data essential to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practices, closely integrated with the timely dissemination of these data to those who need to know. The final link in the surveillance chain is the application of these data to prevention and control."(1) The objectives of occupational and environmental health surveillance are the following: 1) To characterize the most common types of injuries and illnesses related to occupational and environmental factors, their causes, and their risk factors; 2) To characterize affected populations; 3) To estimate the overall magnitude and severity of problems; 4) To identify geographic areas, industries and occupations, and specific workplaces and communities where interventions are most needed; 5) To identify new or previously unidentified risk factors that should be researched; 6) To characterize the distribution of occupational and environmental health hazards; 7) To evaluate the effectiveness of interventions; and 8) To generate support for prevention activities. Surveillance is often referred to as the "cornerstone of public health practice," providing the foundation on which to build successful prevention programs. Broadly speaking, surveillance can be divided into surveillance for health outcomes (such as injuries, illnesses, and deaths) and surveillance for hazards or exposures. Ideally, surveillance is ongoing and continuous. Surveys that are performed repeatedly to monitor trends and changes in prevalence are generally regarded as surveillance, but cross-sectional studies and one-time surveys and data collections are generally not-although such activities are sometimes used to augment surveillance data. Surveillance for environmental and occupational injuries and illnesses as well as health problems linked to the wide range of types of exposure in these different settings must utilize a wide range of approaches and data sources. Each method and data source will have its own advantages and disadvantages. Surveillance for diseases caused by environmental exposures is especially challenging because the diseases of interest may have many potential causes. Therefore, the focus is often on hazards in the environment, rather than health outcomes. Surveillance for markers of exposure to hazards, such as blood lead levels, may also be performed. This chapter focuses on surveillance in the occupational context. An overview and select examples of environmental health surveillance are provided near the end of this chapter.
Occupational-health; Environmental-health; Surveillance-programs; Health-hazards; Occupations; Employee-health; Health-surveys; Questionnaires; Public-health; Demographic-characteristics; Work-practices; Risk-analysis; Exposure-assessment; Medical-monitoring; Medical-screening; Environmental-hazards
7439-92-1; 630-08-0
Publication Date
Document Type
Levy BS; Wegman DH; Baron SL; Sokas RK
Funding Type
Cooperative Agreement
Fiscal Year
Identifying No.
NIOSH Division
Source Name
Occupational and environmental health: recognizing and preventing disease and injury, 6th edition
Performing Organization
Massachusetts State Department of Public Health
Page last reviewed: March 25, 2022
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division