Work: the role of occupational epidemiology

This article was originally published here

Am J Epidemiol. October 6, 2021: kwab243. doi: 10.1093 / aje / kwab243. Online ahead of print.


The COVID-19 pandemic has once again demonstrated the importance of work as a determinant of health. The existing disparities widened as the workforce was divided between around 50% who could work from home safely and those who could not. With the spotlight on work, one might wonder where all the occupational epidemiologists have gone. In response, we highlight the decline in research support and more limited access to the workplace which has led many people to shift the focus from workers to other vulnerable populations. We build on the renewed interest in work as a driver of health and inequalities during the pandemic to highlight the contributions of the epidemiology of work to public health. Consider: (1) etiological studies of chronic diseases based on employment records to define cohorts and reconstruct long-term exposure; (2) studies of hypothetical interventions particularly appropriate to assess potential regulations aimed at reducing workplace exposures; and (3) studies of disparities that capitalize on work as a potential source of social stratification and economic opportunity. As we learned during COVID-19, workplaces can become places for disseminating public health messages and interventions to listed adult populations. By starting with COVID-19 prevention policies, we have a chance to protect public health and rethink work.

PMID: 34613355 | DOI: 10.1093 / aje / kwab243

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