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Health care to health
11/25/2013
The Occupational Health Advantage

THE OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH ADVANTAGE

Safe and Productive Workplaces, Healthier Workers, Stronger Communities

This quarterly newsletter is provided by Occupational Health physicians and staff of University of Colorado Health.

Philosophy of Occupational Medicine 
Occupational Medicine pioneers, Ramazzini and Hamilton, were astute observers of the world of work and researched the linkage between the workplaces and jobs of their day and the health of workers and their communities. They encouraged physicians to adopt a 3-step approach to the recognition and control of work-related hazards and the associated illnesses and injuries:      

  • Know the workplace.
  • Patiently and thoroughly evaluate the worker.
  • Use the knowledge gained to improve the worker’s life and health in their communities.

Occupational Medicine Today 
The Occupational Medicine physicians of today still practice these basic principles, accessing the vast resources of the information technology age and orchestrating a comprehensive approach to the prevention of work-related disease and injury, and the delivery of healthcare to the sick or injured worker.

Our post-graduate training includes:

  • Internship in surgery, family practice or internal medicine.
  • First year of residency- didactic learning year to acquire the Master of Public Health Degree.
  • Second year of residency– practicum year in various Occupational Medicine settings such as NIOSH, OSHA, private practice clinic settings or Corporate Occupational Health Services.

Specific areas of education and training include:

  • Occupational and preventive medicine.
  • Health and productivity management.
  • Workplace safety and industrial hygiene.
  • Health promotion and wellness.
  • Principles of public health.
  • Ergonomics.
  • Environmental medicine.
  • Disability prevention and management.
  • Toxicology.
  • Noise and vibration exposure.

After the requisite additional years of clinical practice, Occupational Medicine specialists are certified by the American Board of Preventive Medicine. Prevention is essential to everything we do:

  • Primary prevention – preventing the occurrence of a disease.
  • Secondary prevention - early detection of a disease at a treatable stage.
  • Tertiary prevention – minimize the effects of an established disease.

While we often treat workers who have been injured on the job, our goal is to prevent those injuries. In those efforts, we work with employers to recognize potential workplace health hazards, then control or eliminate the conditions from the workplace, in order to avoid preventable injuries and illnesses. That is the foundation of our practice.

The organizational goals of Colorado Health Medical Group are aligned with the principles of Occupational Medicine. Occupational Health Services is the portal to a network of healthcare providers with the same values and goals throughout our organization. Consider these applications of occupational health principles to a common occupational disease, noise-induced hearing loss, and a common community medical condition, breast cancer:

Noise-induced hearing loss:

  • Primary prevention – engineering controls when feasible and personal protective devices when engineering controls are not possible.
  • Secondary prevention – periodic hearing testing in accordance with OSHA Guidelines to detect reversible cases of hearing loss. There should always be linkage to remedial action in the workplace.
  • Tertiary prevention – expert Audiology, Otolaryngology (ENT physician) and Occupational Medicine care to lessen the functional impact of existing hearing loss at work and home, and prevent further hearing loss.

Breast Cancer:

  • Primary prevention – educational efforts in the workplace and the community at large to increase the awareness of genetic predispositions leading to increased risk for the occurrence of this disease.
  • Secondary prevention - making clinical examinations and mammography available to workers and other members of the community, with “Paycheck reminders” to schedule screening examinations.
  • Tertiary prevention - providing high quality medical, surgical and oncology resources when breast cancer is detected.

These are just two examples of the application of occupational medicine principles to workplace and community public health problems. There are many more.

America’s best companies know that the prevention of occupational disease and injury is only meeting a minimum requirement. To survive and thrive in the hyper-competitive global marketplace, they must foster the optimization of worker health and productivity. At University of Colorado Health, we call this making the transition “from health care to health.”

In this and subsequent issues of the “From health care to health” newsletter, we will explore occupational, community and environmental health issues.

As Ramazzini wrote in 1700 in the introduction to his Occupational Medicine textbook, The Diseases of Workers, “Wherefore do you, kind reader, give a friendly reception to my treatise which, though no great work of art, was written for the good of the community, or at all events for the benefit and comfort of the working classes, and, if you please: make allowance for a work written not from ambition but a sense of duty and to be of use.”

Sincerely,

John D Charbonneau, MD, MPH, FACOEM
Medical Director, Occupational Health
Colorado Health Medical Group - Northern

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