APHA adopts policies on occupational health

Flu vaccines, immigrant worker health included

The American Public Health Association (APHA) has adopted 19 policies addressing public health issues ranging from access to contraceptives and availability of the influenza vaccine to sex education in schools and access to care following hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

The 50,000-member association adopts yearly public policy statements to draw attention to and action on public health issues, including occupational health issues. The policies of particular interest to occupational and environmental health professionals include:

  • A public health approach to influenza vaccination — Supports universal influenza vaccination by, among many recommendations, calling for support of a federal vaccine purchase program for uninsured adults; encouraging proper public health preparedness in the event of an influenza vaccine shortage; and urging the U.S. government to consider increasing incentives for pharmaceutical companies to invest in the research, development, and production capacity of influenza vaccine.
  • Occupational health and safety for immigrants — Supports formalizing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) policy not to refer cases involving undocumented workers to immigration officials; creating initiatives to permit OSHA and the Employment Standards Administration to collaborate with community, faith-based, and worker organizations to improve immigrant outreach; and ensuring that all workers, regardless of immigration status, have access to workers' compensation when injured.
  • Reducing occupational exposure to benzene — Urges Congress to fund OSHA at a level necessary to review current scientific evidence on benzene to establish a new standard; urges OSHA to consider evidence from epidemiological studies and risk assessments that consider multiple environmental sources of benzene exposure; urges federal funding for research to determine the level of benefits in morbidity, mortality, and productivity of individuals and industries by establishing benzene standards.
  • Protection of rescue and recovery workers and volunteers — Urges several actions be taken to reduce the risks to rescue and recovery workers, volunteers, and residents responding to disasters, including implementation of the National Response Plan's worker and community environmental testing and monitoring provisions; enforcement of all Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Environmental Protection Agency regulations; adoption of criteria for the remediation of contaminated soil prior to construction; and protections for vulnerable workers, including immigrants and temporary workers.
  • Strengthening the public health work force — Urges Congress to provide adequate funding for a comprehensive national database on the public health work force, including race, ethnicity, gender, and disability status; supports the developing of and funding for best practices for recruitment, retention, and training of the public health work force; and calls for increased funding for programs designed to improve public health leadership and management training.
  • Supporting global strategy on diet, physical education, and health — Supports the World Health Organization's Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health; encourages U.S. local, state, federal, and tribal governments to develop strategies addressing the impact obesity; encourages surveillance data on obesity to be maintained; supports obesity research and encourages organizations at all levels of American society to support nutritious food choices and physical activity.
  • Colorectal cancer screening — Urges employers and insurers to remove barriers to colorectal screening; urges state governments to require that all health insurers include full coverage for colorectal cancer screening and related diagnostic tests; urges state and local health departments to include colorectal cancers in all cancer screening programs and promote screening to their clients; and encourages the federal government to collect data and promote colorectal cancer screening.
  • Increasing research funds for nanotechnology — Urges Congress and relevant federal agencies to dedicate at least $100 million of the total funding related to the National Nanotechnology Initiative annually for at least the next several years, specifically to research the occupational and environmental health and safety implications of nanomaterials.

The remaining policies adopted this year by the association address:

  • Condemning torture of detainees by health professionals;
  • Protecting human milk from chemicals;
  • Protecting children from lead exposure;
  • Addressing unmet end-of-life needs;
  • Needs of immigrants following Gulf Coast hurricanes;
  • Access to contraceptive prescriptions;
  • Reducing food-related disparities; and
  • Support for oral health programs.

For full details of the APHA position policies, visit www.apha.org/legislative/policy/index.htm, or call the Washington, DC -based association at (202) 777-2742.