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  • ACOEM Urges Presidential Candidates to Include Workforce Health Measures in their Reform Proposals

    September 25, 2008

    The Honorable John McCain
    c/o John McCain 2008
    P.O. Box 16118
    Arlington, VA   22215 

    ATTN:  Jay Khosla, Health Policy Advisor

    Dear Senator McCain:

    During the course of your campaign, I urge you to speak to the importance of the health and safety of America’s workers to our economy and the health care system; and the critical need to invest strategically in preventive health care to protect the vitality of the United States economy.

    This strategy will provide a solid basis for guiding public policy in healthcare reform.  Without a new emphasis on the health of workers, the United States’ health care system will be incapable of sustaining itself in the near future. Consider these key facts:

    • The workforce is the engine that drives our economy and supports the health care system.
    • The aging and retirement of the baby boomers – the so-called “silver tsunami” – is bringing with it an ominous increase in the burden of chronic disease among the young that threatens the pipeline of healthy, productive workers.
    • The balance between economic net contributors (“workers”) and those dependent on government programs, i.e., Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, is on the verge of a dramatic shift – with too few contributors in the pipeline to support the demands of these entitlement programs.

    The time has come to accept the fundamental reality that the nation’s fiscal crisis, its health crisis, and its workforce are inextricably linked.

    We believe that the working-age population is, essentially the key to the future of health care in the United States. A fiscal and social calamity can only be averted by public investment in the health and productivity of the working-age population through a new preventive-based paradigm centered in the workplace, with built-in mechanisms for quantifying and improving health outcomes.

    The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), the nation’s leading medical organization devoted to worker health and safety, is developing a new action agenda to address these issues. ACOEM believes that more attention and resources should be devoted to health-related services that protect the employability of individuals in the working-age population in order to maximize overall workforce health. The government should preferentially invest in high-leverage services that improve the overall health and function of the working age population. This is just one of many steps that will be necessary in coming years to maintain a proper balance between economic net contributors and net dependents (those dependent on government programs).

    In short: Any viable health reform agenda must include provisions aimed specifically at safeguarding and improving the health and productivity of the workforce.

    In an environment in which health care costs are skyrocketing, the sensible approach is to reduce the need for care – and the most powerful way to accomplish this is by focusing on evidence-based prevention. A growing body of research demonstrates the connection between preventive practices and lowered total costs – essentially proving the scientific and economic case for prevention. Health promotion and early intervention are clearly effective in improving health and controlling health costs in the workplace; some studies have shown a return of as much as $3 per $1 invested. ACOEM’s members are leaders in this approach – referred to as Health and Productivity Management (HPM) – which has been extensively studied and is yielding positive results for employers.

    Moving the health agenda forward by focusing on prevention in the workplace has the added benefit of addressing the vital issue of America’s global competitiveness. Because worker health and the ability to thrive in the world economy are clearly aligned, both are advanced by a new emphasis on prevention.

    We urge you to adopt these four fundamental principles as a part of your health care policy:

    • Keeping the workforce healthy and productive is essential to keeping the economy strong enough to avert overall health system failure.
    • Public investment in health care should advance beneficial social outcomes, most particularly workforce health and productivity.
    • The workforce will become healthier through prioritized investment in evidence-based primary and secondary prevention strategies.
    • These strategies will succeed only if spending on prevention is considered a priority rather than discretionary.

    Examples of action items that will help address our health system crisis include:

    • Establish a national priority for public investment in programs to assure a healthy, able, and available U.S. workforce. 
    • Fund programs for prevention and health improvement with the same priority that Medicare and Medicaid fund care of the sick.
    • Go beyond the “medical” definition of prevention to include interventions in other domains that have been shown to improve workforce health and productivity.
    • Assure access to evidence-based preventive and early intervention healthcare.
    • Align financial incentives that will shift consumers and healthcare providers towards primary and secondary prevention.

    The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) is the nation’s largest medical society devoted to promoting the health of workers, their families, and communities through preventive medicine, clinical care, research, and education. ACOEM represents nearly 5,000 physicians and other health care professionals specializing in the field of occupational and environmental medicine (OEM). ACOEM members practice in diverse settings including large industry with multi-plant operations, medium and small sized companies, private practice, hospital-based OEM programs, government agencies, and academia.

    ACOEM is a recognized leader among medical professional societies for its commitment to enhancing worker health and productivity; preventing work-related illness and injury; and advocating effective and outcome-oriented medical care. As a member of the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates, ACOEM works closely with other primary care disciplines, including family practice and internal medicine.

    Senator McCain, a public investment in the health and productivity of working-age population through a new preventive-based paradigm centered in the workplace is a public health imperative. 

    Sincerely,
    Robert R. Orford, MD
    President



    September 25, 2008

    The Honorable Barack Obama
    c/o Obama for America
    P.O. Box 8102
    Chicago, IL   60680

    ATTN: Neera Tanden, Director of Domestic Policy

    Dear Senator Obama:

    During the course of your campaign, I urge you to speak to the importance of the health and safety of America’s workers to our economy and the health care system; and the critical need to invest strategically in preventive health care to protect the vitality of the United States economy.

    This strategy will provide a solid basis for guiding public policy in healthcare reform.  Without a new emphasis on the health of workers, the United States’ health care system will be incapable of sustaining itself in the near future. Consider these key facts:

    • The workforce is the engine that drives our economy and supports the health care system.
    • The aging and retirement of the baby boomers – the so-called “silver tsunami” – is bringing with it an ominous increase in the burden of chronic disease among the young that threatens the pipeline of healthy, productive workers.
    • The balance between economic net contributors (“workers”) and those dependent on government programs, i.e., Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, is on the verge of a dramatic shift – with too few contributors in the pipeline to support the demands of these entitlement programs.

     The time has come to accept the fundamental reality that the nation’s fiscal crisis, its health crisis, and its workforce are inextricably linked.

    We believe that the working-age population is, essentially the key to the future of health care in the United States. A fiscal and social calamity can only be averted by public investment in the health and productivity of the working-age population through a new preventive-based paradigm centered in the workplace, with built-in mechanisms for quantifying and improving health outcomes.

    The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM), the nation’s leading medical organization devoted to worker health and safety, is developing a new action agenda to address these issues. ACOEM believes that more attention and resources should be devoted to health-related services that protect the employability of individuals in the working-age population in order to maximize overall workforce health. The government should preferentially invest in high-leverage services that improve the overall health and function of the working age population. This is just one of many steps that will be necessary in coming years to maintain a proper balance between economic net contributors and net dependents (those dependent on government programs).

    In short: Any viable health reform agenda must include provisions aimed specifically at safeguarding and improving the health and productivity of the workforce.

    In an environment in which health care costs are skyrocketing, the sensible approach is to reduce the need for care – and the most powerful way to accomplish this is by focusing on evidence-based prevention. A growing body of research demonstrates the connection between preventive practices and lowered total costs – essentially proving the scientific and economic case for prevention. Health promotion and early intervention are clearly effective in improving health and controlling health costs in the workplace; some studies have shown a return of as much as $3 per $1 invested. ACOEM’s members are leaders in this approach – referred to as Health and Productivity Management (HPM) – which has been extensively studied and is yielding positive results for employers.

    Moving the health agenda forward by focusing on prevention in the workplace has the added benefit of addressing the vital issue of America’s global competitiveness. Because worker health and the ability to thrive in the world economy are clearly aligned, both are advanced by a new emphasis on prevention.

    We urge you to adopt these four fundamental principles as a part of your health care policy:

    • Keeping the workforce healthy and productive is essential to keeping the economy strong enough to avert overall health system failure.
    • Public investment in health care should advance beneficial social outcomes, most particularly workforce health and productivity.
    • The workforce will become healthier through prioritized investment in evidence-based primary and secondary prevention strategies.
    • These strategies will succeed only if spending on prevention is considered a priority rather than discretionary.

    Examples of action items that will help address our health system crisis include:

    • Establish a national priority for public investment in programs to assure a healthy, able, and available U.S. workforce. 
    • Fund programs for prevention and health improvement with the same priority that Medicare and Medicaid fund care of the sick.
    • Go beyond the “medical” definition of prevention to include interventions in other domains that have been shown to improve workforce health and productivity.
    • Assure access to evidence-based preventive and early intervention healthcare.
    • Align financial incentives that will shift consumers and healthcare providers towards primary and secondary prevention.

    The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) is the nation’s largest medical society devoted to promoting the health of workers, their families, and communities through preventive medicine, clinical care, research, and education. ACOEM represents nearly 5,000 physicians and other health care professionals specializing in the field of occupational and environmental medicine (OEM). ACOEM members practice in diverse settings including large industry with multi-plant operations, medium and small sized companies, private practice, hospital-based OEM programs, government agencies, and academia.

    ACOEM is a recognized leader among medical professional societies for its commitment to enhancing worker health and productivity; preventing work-related illness and injury; and advocating effective and outcome-oriented medical care. As a member of the American Medical Association’s House of Delegates, ACOEM works closely with other primary care disciplines, including family practice and internal medicine.

    Senator Obama, a public investment in the health and productivity of working-age population through a new preventive-based paradigm centered in the workplace is a public health imperative. 

    Sincerely,

    Robert R. Orford, MD
    President