No. 25




Occupational Health in a “Win-Win” Health Care System

14 June 2012


RiTo No. 25, 2012

  • Mari Järvelaid

    Doctor of Medicine, President of the Estonian Health Protection Society

The aim of health system – longer life and more healthy life years – can be achieved in cooperation between different levels of health care.

The average life expectancy in the European Union has risen to more than 81 years. In Estonia, too, the life expectancy at birth and number of healthy life years has increased during the last years. But the number of people with primary permanent incapacity for work has also increased, having almost doubled since 2001 and forming nearly 9.5 per cent of population in 2011.

The poll conducted within the framework of Estonian Labour Force Study 2011 (health and capacity for work module) showed that less than two per cent of 50–54 year old workers had very good health and 49.5 per cent considered their health good; only one per cent of 60–64 year olds considered their health very good and 29 per cent good, so that it can be said most people have problems with health.

On 15 March this year, the experts of the Member States of the European Union came together at the invitation of the French in order to discuss the diagnosing of occupational diseases. The experts’ attention was focused on Denmark where more than 17,000 new cases of occupational diseases were diagnosed last year. European practice shows that the more occupational diseases are diagnosed in a country, the more effective the prevention of occupational diseases is.

According to the ILO, occupational health care has a considerable impact on economy because it is estimated that four per cent of the gross product of world economy is lost because of workplace accidents and occupational diseases. According to the European Commission, work-related risk factors cause 8.8 per cent of deaths globally.

In real life there are actually very few such black-and-white situations where health disorders are caused only by work. Registered work-related illnesses are like an iceberg under the water – the top that is above water is of different height in every country. It should not be forgotten that people learn to live with their diseases, and recognising a disease requires knowledge. Usually the early recognising of the first signs of a health disorder gives an advantage in the form of preventing the disease, quicker healing, smaller medical treatment expenses and preserving of capacity for work.

Work health can contribute to the early prevention of work-related health disorders of men and women, and increasing the number of healthy life years. The solving of a problem begins by admitting boldly that there is a problem. Making occupational health service a fully-fledged part of the health care system is a key to better future and in conclusion a win-win possibility to the state, the employers and the workers.

Full article in Estonian