Monday, January 26, 2009

UK Zones in on Silicosis at Small Businesses

The UK Government recently launched a new campaign to better educate small businesses on the harmful effects of silicosis.

Many small contractors are still unaware of the dangers of silica dust, the Health and Safety Executive has warned. Dr Robert Ellis – from the regulator's chemicals risk management unit, which is leading the HSE's "Clean the Air" campaign – said despite a marked increase in awareness of silicosis across big business, he found smaller firms were often still uninformed.

The campaign will rely primarily on over 200,000 leaflets and 3,000 DVDs to help inform contractors, especially small construction companies, of the dangers of inhaling crystalline dust. Still, many British public health professionals worry about the effectiveness of such a campaign stating that smaller companies tend to get lost in the shuffle and usually lack the infrastructure that larger companies have to get the information out.

In most developing countries, this challenge is even greater. India in particular is seeing most of its economic growth from SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises). The success of this campaign could provide a good model for a similar education campaign in developing countries despite there being substantial differences between the two economies.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Survey Says Worksite Clinics Gaining in Popularity

A new report details how worksite clinics are gaining in popularity in the US. The survey, by Mercer LLC, also found that 14 percent of these clinics are providing primary care to workers. The growing expense of health care plans is cited as one of the main reasons for this increased dependence.

Perhaps, the most telling part of the study was the services that the companies are considering to add.

The services that the greatest number of respondents said they were considering adding to their clinic offerings were health screenings (71%), immunizations (61%), urgent care for nonoccupational injuries (56%) and chronic disease management (50%).

Though this is a US study, it's interesting to see that the trend towards more onsite facilities is taking hold. Many of these findings at the US-level could be applied to Indian companies. After all, it was not that long ago that large manufacturing companies in the US and other parts of the developed world provided such services to their employees before the onset of managed care in the 1970s.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

New Hazardous Materials Site Makes WSJ List of Top Health Sites

HazMap, an awesome site developed by the National Institutes of Health, was listed in the Wall Street Journal's annual list of top new (or improved) health sites. HazMap includes a multitude of chemical profiles of agents that pose a potential occupational risk. The site also includes profiles of high risk jobs.

According to the Journal's article, "The site recently added 180 new chemical profiles, and now covers more than 2,000 chemical agents and 225 occupational diseases. Consumers can search by symptoms or diseases". Other health sites that received mention include:, Why Not the Best, Everyday Health, and HealthCentral. Among them, only HazMap seems to focus on occupational health issues. The most helpful aspect of the site to me is this form tool that helps to identify occupational diseases by job and symptoms.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Perfecting Economics at the Village Level

Are you interested in Esther Duflo, an economist at MIT, recently received an honorable mention in an Economist article on young economists. Duflo's work has focused on moving development economics away from concentrating solely on policies, but instead to approach the discipline through field work at the community level. She and her colleagues conduct randomized trials of development projects and are often surprised by many of their findings.
In one study, Ms. Duflo and her colleagues showed that mothers in the Indian state of Rajasthan are three times as more likely to have their children vaccinated if they are rewarded with a kilogram of daal (lentils) at the immunisation camp. The result is useful to aid workers, but puzzling to economists: why should such a modest incentive (worth less than 50 cents) make such a big difference? Immunisation can save a child's life; a bag of lentils should not sway the mother's decision either way.
While many economists are skeptical of Duflo's methods, saying that there is no way to show why the project yielded such results, only that it on fact happened. This results-focused approached to economics would, however, be extremely helpful to our future projects in Rajasthan. Here is a listing of several of Ms. Duflo's most recent papers.