Development and maturation of the occupational health services research field in the United States over the past 25 years: challenges and opportunities for the future

Publication type
Journal article
Sears JM, Wickizer TM, Franklin GM, Fulton-Kehoe D, Hannon PA, Harris JR, Graves JM, McGovern PM
Date published
2023 Aug 01
American Journal of Industrial Medicine
Open Access?

Work is an important social determinant of health; unfortunately, work-related injuries remain prevalent, can have devastating impact on worker health, and can impose heavy economic burdens on workers and society. Occupational health services research (OHSR) underpins occupational health services policy and practice, focusing on health determinants, health services, healthcare delivery, and health systems affecting workers. The field of OHSR has undergone tremendous expansion in both definition and scope over the past 25 years. In this commentary, focusing on the US, we document the historical development and evolution of OHSR as a research field, describe current doctoral-level OHSR training, and discuss challenges and opportunities for the OHSR field. We also propose an updated definition for the OHSR field: Research and evaluation related to the determinants of worker health and well-being; to occupational injury and illness prevention and surveillance; to healthcare, health programs, and health policy affecting workers; and to the organization, access, quality, outcomes, and costs of occupational health services and related health systems. Researchers trained in OHSR are essential contributors to improvements in healthcare, health systems, and policy and programs to improve worker health and productivity, as well as equity and justice in job and employment conditions. We look forward to the continued growth of OHSR as a field and to the expansion of OHSR academic training opportunities