How should the UK’s occupational health challenges best be addressed? The booklet ‘Public Policy Seminar on Health and Well-being of Working Age People’, published jointly by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Department of Health (DOH), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) highlights some current evidence on health, work and well-being, identifies key areas for future research and explores potential interventions to improve workplace health from the perspective of employers, employees and those currently out of employment.
Professor Ian Diamond, ESRC Chief Executive outlines the current occupational health issues. “In a modern world where rising dependency ratios and global market forces place an ever-greater burden on those of working age in supporting others, their health is becoming of increasing importance for Government policymaking,” Professor Diamond explains. “As the balance of the economy continues to shift from manufacturing towards service provision, the type of risks workers face, the hazards they are exposed to, and the injuries people sustain as a result of employment will continue to change.
“Indeed the whole terrain of occupational health is transforming,” he continues. “And concentration on problems such as absenteeism and accidental injury is giving way to a broader vision of what a healthier and happier and more productive workforce can achieve in terms of higher performance and productivity.”
To address the changing terrain of occupational health will require further evidence-based policymaking. And, in the booklet ‘Public Policy Seminar on Health and Well-being of Working Age People’, policymakers, researchers and occupational health experts highlight those areas which merit more research evidence before robust policies can be formulated.Says Jonathan Rees, Deputy Chief Executive, Health and Safety Executive:
Dr Bill Gunnyeon, Director, Health Work and Well-being and Chief Medical Adviser, Department for Work and Pensions, adds: “We know that being out of work has negative health effects and can lead to social exclusion, health inequalities and relative poverty for individuals and their families. Being in work brings positive benefits in building self confidence, maintaining self esteem, ensuring social contact and allowing individuals to optimise opportunities for themselves and their families. And this in turn has benefits for communities and for society as a whole. Against this background it is clear that we need to support people with health conditions and disabilities to help them remain in or wherever possible to return to work. Further research is now needed to establish how we as a society can rise to the challenges posed in securing healthier, safer, happier and more productive workplaces.”
Dr Craig Jackson who led the first of the two ESRC Public Policy Seminars in July 2006 on worker health and well-being confirms the need for a stronger evidence base. “Policymakers are currently developing strategies to improve the health and well-being of current and potential employees. But to succeed these strategies will need collective support from individuals, families, communities and employers. It is vital, therefore, that this ambitious agenda for change is built on a firm evidence base.”
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