Addressing work conditions to improve public health: a series in The Lancet
October 12, 2023 (Toronto, Ont.)—Working conditions can have an impact on health and unequal health outcomes across the population. As a result, decision-makers from across different government departments should take greater note of work as a social determinant of health.
That is a key message from a series of three papers published today in one of the world’s leading medical journals, The Lancet. In the series, the authors argue that work is not used to its full potential as a means to address health inequities.
“Work is an undervalued lever for improving population health. Major gains in population health and reductions in health disparities can be made by an increased focus on improving the work environment,” says Dr. Reiner Rugulies, professor at Denmark’s National Research Centre for the Working Environment and a lead author of one of the papers.
“We spend most of our lives at work, so no wonder that working conditions can impact on our health and wellbeing–in both positive and negative ways,” says Institute for Work & Health (IWH) president and senior scientist, Dr. Peter Smith, one of the co-authors.
The three papers in the series review the evidence to date on the relationships between work and health in high-income countries. They explore key emerging challenges to work, workplace mental health, and dimensions of disadvantage and inclusion in the global labour market. In each paper, the authors outline recommendations for decision-makers in public health, medical, labour and legal spheres to ensure working conditions will give rise to healthy and safe work for diverse populations.
“Telework, migration, precarious employment and climate change are just some of the forces of change that will continue to shape the nature of work and impact health inequities—potentially in profound ways,” says Smith. “Recent advances in data and study methods allow us to ask ‘what if’ questions about policy measures related to working conditions—and explore the potential impact of these measures on broader population health.”
Full text of the three papers in the series can be accessed at www.thelancet.com/series/work-and-health. The series will also be presented at the World Health Summit in Berlin on Sunday, October 15, at 4:00 p.m. Berlin time (or 10:00 a.m. Toronto time). The panel discussion will be broadcast via livestream on the World Health Summit’s YouTube channel.
For more information, or to request an interview with Dr. Peter Smith about the series, please contact:
Institute for Work & Health
Institute for Work & Health
416-927-2027 ext. 2156 (office)
About the Institute for Work & Health
IWH is an independent, not-for-profit research organization that conducts and mobilizes research to support policy-makers, employers and workers in creating healthy, safe and inclusive work environments. The Institute provides practical and relevant findings and evidence-based products on the inter-relationships between work and health from worker, workplace and systems perspectives. iwh.on.ca