Occupational injuries and illnesses are significant public health problems. However, these injuries and illnesses can be prevented. In order to make workplaces healthier and safer, health agencies must obtain the information necessary to fully understand the problem. Occupational health surveillance provides essential information to inform research priorities, target and design prevention activities, and monitor progress in meeting prevention goals. Because many gaps exist in national systems, state health agencies have a crucial role to play both in filling these gaps and in guiding local prevention efforts. To advance occupational health at the state level, there is a need to mentor state-based surveillance programs newly funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH);enhance collaboration and synergism among all 23 NIOSH funded state supported programs;and promote development of occupational health expertise and surveillance efforts in all states across the nation. The Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists (CSTE) is an organization of member states and territories and represents the perspective of epidemiologists working in state and local governments in the practice of public health. A primary goal of CSTE is to establish more effective relationships among state and territorial epidemiologists and other health agencies. CSTE has a long history of collaboration with NIOSH and the states in working to develop occupational health surveillance capacity in the states. CSTE is proposing to build on this history to: advance surveillance capacity through occupational health indicators and joint surveillance projects;advocate for inclusion of occupational health considerations on the broader public health agenda through position statements;develop and disseminate surveillance guidance, success stories, and enhance access to state occupational health information via the CSTE website;update technical guidance for conducting occupational health surveillance;plan, organize, conduct, and evaluate scientific meetings and workshops to support NIOSH funded and unfunded state occupational health surveillance programs, and; promote state, regional, and nationwide collaboration to increase occupational health surveillance capacity in the U.S. This proposal will address the identified need to increase state capacity in occupational health and to integrate it into general public health practice.
Injuries in the workplace, both fatal and nonfatal, are preventable. Each year in the U.S., four of every 100 full-time workers, approximately 4.4 million individuals, sustain injuries, and over 5,200 workers die from workplace injuries (BLS, 2010). Although there is a comprehensive national surveillance system for fatal occupational injuries, the current nationwide system for surveillance of occupational illnesses and nonfatal occupational injuries has substantial gaps (Azaroff, 2002) and there have been recent calls for improvement (IOM &NRC, 2009;USHR, 2008) and capacity building for occupational health surveillance. States, which have legal authority to require disease reporting and collect health data, have a crucial role to play in both filling these gaps in the national system and generating information necessary to guide state and local efforts to protect the safety and health of working people (CSTE, 2001).