Occupational health

Global Issues


Scaling up basic occupational health services

Dr Ivan Ivanov, Scientist, WHO, ochmail@who.int; workershealth@who.int

Countries are reforming their health systems to achieve better cost-efficiency and equity. How to deal with the health of workers in these reforms, how to provide basic occupational health services while moving towards universal coverage, what is the role of specialized occupational health services in an integrated primary health care, how are national and local health systems performing in order to protect and promote the health of the workforce? These are questions that often come to WHO in the course of implementing the Global Plan of Action on Workers' Health.

For this reason, in 2009 WHO initiated, with kind support from the US NIOSH, a global project to scale up the coverage of basic occupational health services by strengthening the performance of health systems in the area of workers' health. The project includes policy interventions, building human and institutional capacities for basic occupational health and enabling the delivery of essential interventions and basic occupational health services by primary care providers and community health workers.

Completed activities - 2009-2010

  • Global meeting in Santiago de Chile in 2009 assessed the feasibility for integrating occupational health in primary health care and identified strategic directions for actions - with the Ministry of Health and the National Public Health Institute of Chile
  • Systematic reviews of evidence on the effectives of essential intervention for prevention of selected occupational risk factors for the WHO global burden of disease - with the Occupational Health Cochrane Collaboration Group at FIOH
  • Analysis of existing models for financing and delivery of basic occupational health services in different types of health systems - with HLSP Institute
  • Review of experiences and lessons learned from programmes on building human resource capacity in resource constrained countries for the delivery of occupational health services at the primary care level - with the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).
  • Review of core competencies in the different disciplines in the area of occupational health with a particular focus on the needs of resource constrained countries and countries in economic transition - with UIC
  • Development of definitions for occupational health items were included in the beta version of the 11th revision of the International Classification of Diseases - with the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL) and global working group
  • Support to the ministry of health of Namibia to restructure occupational health and to strengthen the capacities of primary health care centers in this area - with UIC and NIOH South Africa.

Planned activities - 2011-2012

  • Global report "Occupational health in primary health care: the path to health for all workers" outlining policy options for strengthening the performance of health systems in the area of workers' health
  • International conference on occupational health in primary health care to identify the implications for occupational health arising from the primary health reforms
  • Building capacities for organizing, planning and financing of occupational health services in the context of integrated primary health care
  • Review of training materials and development of online facility for training and support in basic occupational health
  • Development of an adaptation for using ICD in occupational health practice
  • Supporting individual countries to integrate occupational health in primary health care policies and health care reforms
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