NIOSH research agenda targets latex allergy

Musculoskeletal injuries also a priority

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) will study levels of latex exposure and allergic response in the health care industry as part of the agency’s National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA), a 10-year plan established in 1996 to guide U.S. research on critical workplace safety and health issues.

During a recent conference with more than 200 partner organizations to review NORA’s progress and discuss future opportunities, NIOSH issued a new report describing first-year successes under NORA. (See Editor’s note at end of article.) They include:

• 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 among health care workers, 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 NORA’s long-term effectiveness, including methods for measuring federal investments and grants awarded in NORA priority areas, tracking the scientific literature to identify NORA-stimulated studies, and identifying future disease and injury prevention successes generated through NORA.

NORA highlights 21 priority areas in which coordinated national research is aimed at protecting the health and safety of workers and reducing the heavy economic costs of job-related injuries and illnesses. Those areas include musculoskeletal disorders, traumatic injuries, occupational allergies, special worker populations at risk, reproductive abnormalities, infectious diseases, and emerging workplace technologies.

[Editor’s note: 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 line, (800) 35-NIOSH. Copies of The National Occupational Research Agenda, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 96-115, are available from the same number.]