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NIOSH Conference on National Research Agenda: Reviews Progress Under Partnership, Further Opportunities

NIOSH Update:

Contact: Fred Blosser (NIOSH)
(202) 260-8519

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) today held its first conference with partner organizations to review current progress and discuss further opportunities for implementing the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), a plan to guide U.S. research on critical workplace safety and health issues over the next decade.

Announced in 1996 after extensive public review and comment, NORA highlights 21 priority areas where coordinated national research will produce optimum results for protecting the health and safety of workers and reducing the heavy economic costs imposed by job-related injuries and illnesses. These priority areas include traumatic injuries, work-related allergies, special worker populations at risk, musculoskeletal disorders, reproductive abnormalities, infectious diseases, and emerging workplace technologies.

Joining NIOSH at today’s meeting were representatives from more than 200 business, labor, government, health, and science organizations that have partnered with NIOSH in developing the agenda and implementing it over the past year. The meeting was held at the National Academy of Sciences.

At today’s meeting, NIOSH issued a new report describing first-year successes under NORA. It also released a new document on musculoskeletal disorders, providing the most comprehensive analysis ever of the scientific literature on these types of disorders.

NIOSH was created under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and became part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 1973. CDC, the nation’s prevention agency, is responsible for translating scientific research into effective public health programs. NIOSH is the only federal institute mandated to conduct workplace safety and health research and training.

According to today’s progress report, first-year achievements under NORA have included:

— Stimulating several upcoming projects through NORA working teams for preventing job-related latex allergy. These include a cooperative agreement to study levels of latex exposure and allergic response in the health care industry, and inclusion of questions in the National Center for Health Statistics’ National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey to help better define the prevalence of latex allergy.

— Leveraging limited resources through new research partnerships. For example,NIOSH and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases in the National Institutes of Health have established a joint program to support extramural research on repetitive motion disorders and low back pain.

— Substantially increasing NIOSH’s investments in NORA priority areas from $8.7 million in fiscal 1996 to an estimated $18.3 million in fiscal 1997.

— Creating systems that will be essential for assessing the effectiveness of NORA in the long term, including methods for measuring federal investments and grants awards in NORA priority areas, tracking the scientific literature to identify studies stimulated by NORA, and identifying future disease and injury prevention successes generated through NORA.

“Clearly, we and our many partners under NORA have begun to shape the strategic health and safety research that will yield enormous dividends for workers, and employers for many years to come,” said CDC Director David E. Satcher, M.D., Ph.D.

“As we recognize our accomplishments thus far under NORA, today’s conference also provides occasion to anticipate the challenges ahead and explore ways to expand our historic partnerships even further,” said NIOSH Director Linda Rosenstock, M.D., M.P.H. “All of us involved in NORA appreciate the opportunities to implement the agenda with the ultimate goal of improving the health and safety of the U.S. workforce.”

Copies of the new NORA progress report, The National Occupational Research Agenda Update, July, 1997, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 97-138, are available by calling the NIOSH toll-free information number, 1-800-35-NIOSH (1-800-356-4674). Copies of The National Occupational Research Agenda, NIOSH (DHHS) Publication 96-115, are available from the same number. Further information about NIOSH also is available on the institute’s home page.