Occupational health (OH) is defined as a component of public health that primarily focuses on maintaining the physical, mental, and the social health of employees in different occupations. Health and work activities are interdependent as occupational and environmental health exposures cause thousands of illnesses and injuries each year requiring clinical treatment and care.
Occupational health shares a close link with overall public health as many social determinants are directly linked to an individual’s ability to work. Therefore, it is not only critical to treat the medical injury or illness but simultaneously treat the interruption of work, or work disability, as its own health outcome.
Work disability occurs “when a worker is unable to stay at work or return to work because of an injury or disease. Work disability is the result of a decision by a worker who for potential physical, psychological, social, administrative, or cultural reasons does not return to work. While the worker may want to return to work, he or she feels incapable of returning to normal working life. Therefore, after the triggering accident or disease has activated a work absence, various determinants can influence some workers to remain temporarily out of the workplace, while others return, and others may finally not return to work at all.” Handbook of Work Disability Prevention and Management – Loisel and Anema 2013.
COHE’s help address work disability through best practices, outreach and education. Applying, COHE evidence-based occupational health best practices is essential for all clinician specialties, not just occupational medicine experts. When a workers’ compensation patient is treated by a COHE provider, evidence has shown return to work outcomes improve and our communities are socially and economically stronger. Below are the five core COHE best practices and how to practice them: