Important trends are generating increased demand for researchers trained in both occupational health and health services research and policy:
- The scope of occupational health is expanding. Health and safety programs in the workplace have continued to evolve to rigorously investigate issues of access to care, evaluation of the cost and quality of care, and utilization patterns in occupational and non-occupational health services.
- Total Worker Health™ a strategy integrating occupational safety and health protection with health promotion to prevent worker injury and illness and to advance health and well-being is being promoted for employers by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The impact of these strategies on worker health and employer return on investment is needed.
- The role of occupational health services researchers is changing with implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Provisions within the ACA encourage increased collaboration between health services researchers and end-users of the results. Investigators are being asked by providers, payers, policy makers and other stakeholders to not just observe and measure the impact of policy change, but to also actively partner with them in designing and implementing the change.
- More detailed and rigorous policy and program evaluations are needed. Policy-makers continue to demand more detailed and rigorous evaluation of proposed workplace regulations and existing health and safety services. While these evaluations often have entailed cost-benefit and cost-effectiveness analyses, more recently simulation techniques are being applied to current policy questions.
These issues of content and methods all are within the realm of health services research, but require a thorough understanding of the substantive context of occupational health and safety. Currently, the best way to address these concerns is through collaborative research between experts in occupational health and safety and health services research and policy. In the future research and training efforts in this area will be conducted by investigators with expertise in both areas.
To facilitate this training effort the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is providing grant support to the University of Minnesota to provide tuition and stipend support to doctoral students accepted into the program (contingent upon annual funding awards). Graduates of this doctoral program will assume leadership roles that enable them to contribute to the scientific knowledge base and policy evaluation efforts identified in the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA).