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Aging worker population is a key concern
Citing the aging work force as one of its ongoing concerns, the Atlanta-based American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN) has thrown its support behind the United States Bone and Joint Decade, which is part of the international Bone and Joint Decade initiative.
"For more than 35 million Americans — that is one in seven people — movement is restricted by a musculoskeletal disorder — a broken bone, hip fracture, arthritis, or sports trauma," says the U.S. web site (www.boneandjointdecade.org/usa). President Bush signed a presidential proclamation declaring the U.S. National Bone and Joint Decade in March 2002. All 50 states and more than 60 U.S. patient and professional health care organizations have pledged their support for the Bone and Joint Decade. The USNAN has formed a not-for-profit corporation to coordinate activities called the United States Bone and Joint Decade, NFP (USBJD).
Awareness and research key
Over the coming decade, through its web site and a host of projects and activities across the nation, the USNAN plans to:
"As the work force gets older, they develop a number of different of chronic conditions, aches and pains, and musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis and osteoporosis," says Susan A. Randolph, MSN, RN, COHN-S, FAAOHN, AAOHN president. "Couple that with work, and with the way the economy is causing people do work longer and harder, and you may develop fatigue in addition those conditions, which compounds problems."
Given demographic trends, this is not a short-lived problem, she asserts. "This will be with us for quite awhile; you might see a lot more people have these types of complaints, and come in and see the occ-health nurse."
The organizers of the Bone and Joint Decade approached the AAOHN to join their effort. "They contacted us about participating for a couple of reasons," notes Randolph. "They have several different patterns of outreach, and one is through health care professionals. Also, through the public, as well as the workers, we can help provide them with information. With nurses being in work sites — where people spend a good part of their day — who better to provide outreach than occupational and environmental health nurses? They will see a lot of folks, and if we can talk with workers, we can educate them about what they can do to keep themselves healthy. We can also pick up conditions early and take care of them before they get worse. Or if there is an injury, we can get them into appropriate treatment and back at work through case management strategies."
Prevention the main focus
From the AAOHN’s perspective, says Randolph, prevention will be the main focus of their efforts. "Our emphasis is on trying to keep people healthy and safe at work," she explains.
As outlined in the public health model, she continues prevention efforts fall into three major categories:
• Primary prevention: This involves education and health promotion interventions delivered before there ever is a disease state. "For example, we emphasize being at the proper weight," Randolph says. "Obesity is a real problem, not only with adults but with kids — our future workers." Excess weight, she observes, affects joints and mobility. Nutrition and exercise will also be emphasized, she says, along with increasing awareness about the problem and what workers can do for themselves.
• Secondary prevention: Here the emphasis is on screening and early detection, and what is done in the workplace is often dictated by the makeup of the work force. "For example, if you have a work force that is primarily female you’d be more concerned about osteoporosis," Randolph explains. "You would encourage women to get screened, and teach them what they can do to address the problem — like taking calcium and doing weight-bearing exercise.
• Tertiary prevention: When a problem already exists, such as a fracture or osteoporosis, the emphasis shifts to getting the worker back on the job. "Here, you examine the most appropriate therapies, or perhaps work station design or ergonomic assessments," says Randolph.
For more information, contact:
Susan A. Randolph, MSN, RN, COHN-S, FAAOHN, President, AAOHN, 2920 Brandywine Road, Suite 100, Atlanta, GA 30341. Telephone: (770) 455-7757. Web: www.aaohn.org.