June 12, 2015

First-ever CDC-sponsored “disability prevention” event

Even if you missed it, you can still listen in to a milestone event:   the first-ever public webinar hosted by a federal government agency on the topic of “disability prevention.”   The umbrella hosting agency was the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) which is the main preventive health arm of the Federal government.

The webinar was actually put together and co-sponored by two specialized units buried deep inside the CDC:  the Center for Workers’ Compensation Studies and the Office for Total Worker Health within NIOSH (National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health).  It was an EXCELLENT kick-off  that I hope reflects a sea change and expansion of focus at NIOSH — and maybe eventually the CDC.

Two invited experts spoke about SECONDARY PREVENTION:  mitigating the impact of injuries and illnesses after they occur by preventing adverse consequences.   This is quite different from NIOSH’s traditional focus on PRIMARY prevention:  avoiding the injuries or illnesses in the first place.

The event wasn’t perfect.   Listen carefully and you’ll notice vocabulary problems — a signal that the speakers, the sponsors, and the audience are not yet quite on the same page.   Various people used the word “disability” to describe quite different  things.   For example,  some spoke about  preventing medical or anatomical problems:    obesity, diagnoses, symptoms, anatomic losses and impairments.   The invited outside speakers referred mostly to the dynamic impact of injuries/illnesses on everyday life:  loss of ability, activity limitations, work absence, loss of jobs and livelihoods, descent into a life of poverty and economic dependency.

The speakers’ POWERFUL AND FACT-FILLED presentations with many citations made the nature and extent of the problem of preventable adverse consequences of injuries very clear. They ALSO made it clear that these problems are NOT unique to workers’ compensation.  They are just EASIER to DETECT in comp because both medical AND wage replacement costs are captured in a single dataset.  Even the Q&A portion of the event featured good questions, pithy remarks, and revealing comments from listeners which led to stimulating dialogue.

The featured speakers were:

You can download pdf’s of the speakers’ powerpoint presentations at the end of the webinar.  If you would like a copy of the unedited transcript from the session, please email vqq3@cdc.gov.

Do make time to listen to it!  It will make you think.   Even though I attended the live event, I listened again because the VIIRPM was very high .  [VIIRPM = Very Important Information Rate Per Minute (smile) ].  Here’s a link to the webinar recording (audio plus slides)   https://nioshtwh.adobeconnect.com/p9law27cnd3/.

I’ve been wondering:   What do those vocabulary problems mean for us?  We need to agree on a lexicon, a shared language in which we use terms the same way across all Federal programs and our society (NIOSH, EEOC/ADA, ODEP, Social Security Disability, etc.)  I’ve already suggested a conference on this to the NIOSH people. In addition, we also need an even bigger term to cover ALL the preventable bad stuff that happens in so many domains of life  — and can turn what should have been a short-term hiccup in life into its ruination.   Here’s a laundry list of outcomes we want to avoid:  (a) preventable impairment and functional loss (due to inadequate or ineffective treatment), (b) preventable secondary medical conditions (such as obesity and depression); (c)  iatrogenic illness (such as opioid addiction and drug side effects); (d) over-disabling (due to false beliefs and lack of patient education), (e) avoidable job loss and withdrawal from the workforce, and (f) people leading purposeless lives of social isolation, economic dependency, and poverty who COULD be participating fully in human life!  These are the poison fruits of a system whose gaps and holes reflect a lack of commitment to assuring that the right things happen when a working person’s life is disrupted by injury or illness — no matter the cause.  So, we also need a big term to describe what we DO want to happen, and the better outcomes we want.

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