Am Fam Physician. 2011 Jun 1;83(11):1247.
to the editor: We were delighted to see the article on recognizing occupational illnesses and injuries. Most adults spend a large part of their time at work, and it does impact their health.
Approximately 14 years ago, responding to a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, the seven family medicine programs in South Carolina cooperated to produce a curriculum to teach environmental and occupational medicine to family medicine residents.1,2 We created a set of five questions that physicians can use to screen patients for possible occupation-related health problems (see accompanying figure).3 We kept the format brief to minimize the time required to complete the screening while maximizing usefulness. Our questions were similar to those presented in the article, but different enough to merit mention.
These screening questions are the result of expert opinion (Strength of Recommendation: C), just as those mentioned in the article. Little research has been published to examine a set of questions as sensitive, specific, time-effective, and cost-effective. More research is needed to create screening questions that can identify potential work-related health problems in a brief time and that will not overly burden primary care physicians.
1. Schuman SH, Simpson WM, Smith WA. Environmental risk assessment: does it work for the community-based family physician? In: Proceedings from the Environmental Hazard Assessment Program/Family Medicine Symposium; October 26–27, 1995; Charleston, S.C.
2. Schuman SH, Simpson WM, Smith WA. The primary care physician as a bridge between disease causation and environmental risk. In: Proceedings of the Second EHAP Symposium; November 14–15, 1996; Charleston, S.C.
3. Division of Public Health and Publice Service Department of Family Medicine—Medical University of South Carolina. WHACS. http://www.musc.edu/oem/whacsinfo.html. Accessed September 28, 2010.
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