NIOSH Director Dr. John Howard commented on the recently passed Healthcare Reform bill and its provisions regarding workplace health and safety. The bill authorizes many new programs targeting prevention and wellness. Included in these programs is the authority for CDC to conduct research and provide technical assistance related to employer-based wellness programs. The bill directs the CDC Director to:
- Provide employers with technical assistance, consultation, tools, and other resources to evaluate employer-based wellness programs including evaluating such programs as they relate to changes in employees' health status, absenteeism, productivity, medical costs, and the rate of workplace injury.
- Build evaluation capacity among workplace staff by training employers on how to evaluate employer-based wellness programs utilizing mechanisms such as web portals, call centers, etc.
- Within two years, conduct a national worksite health policies and programs survey to assess employer-based health policies and programs - followed by a report to Congress with recommendations for the implementation of effective employer-based health policies and programs.
At this time, it's not clear if NIOSH will play a part in these duties. The bill also establishes the National Health Care Workforce Commission, with membership to include health professionals, employers, third party payers and labor unions. Responsibilities of the Commission include a requirement to "submit recommendations to Congress, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Health and Human Services about improving safety, health, and worker protections in the workplace for the healthcare workforce."