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  Table of Contents 
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 23  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 59-60

Universal occupational health care – the need of the hour

Head, Occupational Health Services, Professor, Community Health,St. John's Medical College, Bangalore, Karnataka, India

Date of Submission27-Aug-2019
Date of Acceptance27-Aug-2019
Date of Web Publication25-Sep-2019

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Bobby Joseph
Head, Occupational Health Services, Professor, Community Health, St. John's Medical College, Bangalore - 560 034, Karnataka
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijoem.IJOEM_203_19

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How to cite this article:
Joseph B. Universal occupational health care – the need of the hour. Indian J Occup Environ Med 2019;23:59-60

How to cite this URL:
Joseph B. Universal occupational health care – the need of the hour. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2022 Aug 10];23:59-60. Available from:

The theme for World Health Day 2019 and for the commemorations through the year is “Universal health coverage: everyone, everywhere”. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that universal health coverage is its number one goal, acknowledges that progress is being made in countries in all regions of the world but admits that millions of people still have no access at all to health care. It was with these sentiments in mind that the thought-leaders of the Indian Association of Occupational Health (IAOH) unanimously resolved in June this year to adopt “Universal occupational health care – the need of the hour” as the theme for the Occupational Health Day celebrated on July 9th every year and for the commemorations that follow.

While on the global level, the WHO estimates that at least half of the people in the world do not receive the health services they need; as the country's premier non-governmental organization working in the field of occupational and environmental health, we know that at the national level barely 10% of the Indian working population has access to occupational health care. While the WHO estimated that about 100 million people are pushed into extreme poverty because of out-of-pocket expenditure on health; we are aware that for an economically active population of more than 500 million people in India, we have between 302-366 thousand (3.02-3.66 lakh) deaths due to work-related accidents and diseases. And while the WHO emphasizes on quality and accessible primary health care as the foundation for universal health coverage; we are convinced that the provision basic occupational health services is the cornerstone to universal occupational health care.

These thoughts are probably best encapsulated in WHO's Resolution WHA 60.26 “Workers' Health: Global Plan for Action” in 2007, that urged Member States “to work towards full coverage of all workers, including those in the informal economy, small- and medium-sized enterprises, agriculture, and migrant and contractual workers, with essential interventions and basic occupational health services for primary prevention of occupational and work-related diseases and injuries.”

Following up on this The Hague Conference “Connecting health and labour: what role for occupational health in primary health care” in 2011 acknowledged that “occupational health and primary care share common values that are important for the health of people and populations, but health services that adequately address work are not universally available”. It was suggested that a closer collaboration between occupational health and primary care would enhance the opportunities to contribute to productivity and extend working life and that this integration would lead to a bigger impact on the health of the people.

Without doubt the goal of any organization that looks to provide universal occupational health care should be the provision of improved health care through basic occupational health services delivered to the formal and informal working population, through the existing base of primary health care providers.

To achieve this goal in the short term, it should be the role of that organization to ensure that the current primary health care providers in the private and the public health care systems are oriented to the prevention of occupational diseases and accidents. They should be trained in the early detection of work-related health problems and their appropriate management including acute treatment and subsequent rehabilitation to ensure early return to work. Understanding the current levels of awareness of students (or the lack thereof) of the concepts of occupational health, to achieve the goal in the long term, it would be important to build the capacity of future doctors, nurses, paramedics and grass-root level health workers by including training on basic occupational health services in their respective syllabuses.

It goes without saying that at the macro-level the buy-in of interested parties at various levels – government, civil society, employers, employees and their representatives, whether trade bodies or trade unions – is imperative to achieve any semblance of success. Research into the health profiles of different sectors of workers, their working conditions and the successes and failures of educational and service interventions will help pave the way to achieving occupational health for all.

The objective of this editorial is to sensitize stakeholders – students, health care providers, policymakers and others listed above – of the need to gird our loins and ensure that every employee in every sector in every corner of the country is provided the health care he and she truly deserves.

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