Occupational health

Global Issues

Updates on protecting the occupational health of health workers

Susan Wilburn, Interventions for Healthy Environments, WHO/HQ wilburns@who.int

Campaigns to immunize health workers against the Hepatitis B virus

In 2010, the World Health Assembly adopted resolution A62/15 calling for the comprehensive prevention and control of viral hepatitis and the designation of a World Hepatitis Day starting on 2011 on 28 July. On World Hepatitis Day 2011, the WHO occupational health programme will highlight the importance of immunizing health workers against the hepatitis B virus (HBV) with the publication of an Aide Memoire which will support country efforts to scale-up immunization of health workers. The WHO protecting health workers – preventing needlestick injuries tool kit includes a presentation on the risk of occupational transmission of hepatitis to health workers from sharps injuries and tools for prevention which can be found at the following links:

GOHNET 17 reported on new research present at the Safe Injection Global Network (SIGN) side meeting on health workers and WHO Network of Occupational Health Collaborating Centres' October 2009 workshop to develop the global framework for national occupational health programmes for health workers, WHO and ILO have established a joint working party on health worker occupational health, published new joint guidelines for health workers (see publications) and developed Health WISE, a new tool to assist countries with the implementation of occupational health programmes aimed at the improvement of working conditions in health care settings.

Health WISE

Health WISE is a participatory methodology adapted by WHO and ILO for the health sector based on the ILO Work Improvement in Small Enterprises (WISE) tool to assist health care organizations in improving working conditions and workplace safety. Health WISE is based on six fundamental principles:

  • Build on local practice;
  • Focus on achievements;
  • Link working conditions with other management goals;
  • Use learning-by-doing;
  • Encourage exchange of experience;
  • Promote involvement of staff.
Healthwise workshop in Siracha, Thailand
Healthwise workshop in Siracha, Thailand
Queen Sawang Vadhana Memorial Hospital, Sriracha, Thailand
Queen Sawang Vadhana Memorial Hospital, Sriracha, Thailand

In July 2010, a WHO and ILO held a joint workshop with the experts and social partners identified above to develop the modules where participants contributed good practice examples for use in the Health WISE manual. The action manual was piloted in Tanzania in December 2010 and in Senegal and Thailand in April 2011 and version1 will be published in September 2011.

Other recently published resources to improve working conditions for heath workers are available from the Positive Practice Environments (PPE) campaign cosponsored by the International Council of Nurses, the World Medical Association, and the International Hospital Federation.