Lesson 3: The Case for an Epidemiological Approach
With stated national objectives for reducing workplace injuries, public health agencies are able to assign responsibility to skilled staff to deal with injuries in the community and the workplace. Injuries fit a case definition; they can be part of an ongoing surveillance system; they can be compared by age, gender, occupation, and geographical location; and most importantly, they can be prevented. In this way, they are similar to disease and therefore lend themselves to an epidemiological approach to discover their cause.
They have a societal impact similar to that of chronic disease in that they can cause long – term medical problems for the individual and they cost a great deal of money. As we come to better understand their epidemiology we should be able to develop and implement better injury prevention programs. Figure 4.1 displays data from a well – developed surveillance system through which injuries are reported with the intent to discover the cause and reduce the incidence of these injuries in the workplace.
The data in this figure allow public health agencies to learn what age group is most affected by fatal injuries. The epidemic of fatal occupational injuries begins with the youngest worker and concludes at the normal age of retirement. In 2002, it peaked in the age range from thirty – five to forty – four, with 25.4 percent, or 1,402 cases, and then slowly dropped again as age and perhaps experience at the job increased. People