Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Arizona: Study Provides the First Systematic Statewide Approach to Occupational Health Surveillance in Arizona

A study by researchers at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public shows trends in Arizona in both incidence and health care charges for seven major categories of occupationally associated injury and illness. The study was published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine.


[Photo: Dr. Philip Harber]

The research team reviewed workers compensation cases among 19 million records in the Arizona statewide hospital discharge database (HDD) for seven clinical groups from 2008 to 2014, including back, cardiac, carpal tunnel syndrome, heat-related, psychiatric, pulmonary, and trauma.

The investigators set out to identify trends in emergency department visits and inpatient admissions for occupational injury and disease frequency and describe the financial impact from specific clinical groups known to have occupational risk factors.

The research found that cases with cardiac, psychiatric, and pulmonary diagnoses were both frequent and expensive. Although incidence was generally stable, charges per case rose significantly over the time period.

“This paper is the first to integrate economic considerations with traditional state-based occupational health surveillance measures,” said first author Dr. Philip Harber, professor of environmental and occupational health at the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health. “Leveraging this information can encourage states to provide adequate resources for occupational health surveillance.”

Dr. Harber notes that inpatient and emergency department records provide valuable data that complement other surveillance approaches for both occupational illnesses and injuries. Tracking charge as well as incidence data is useful.

The study also shows that diseases are likely to be at least as significant as injuries for occupational health impact. Many prior studies focused on injuries because they are easier to ascertain than the longer-term, long latency occupational disease.

“While there have been more narrowly focused efforts, this work is the first systematic statewide approach to occupational health surveillance in Arizona,” said Dr. Harber.

The work was a collaboration between the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health and the Arizona Department of Health Services. Ms. Jennifer Ha made major contributions while she was a student in the master of public health program at the college.

Arizona Hospital Discharge and Emergency Department Database:  Implications for Occupational Health Surveillance. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. April 1, 2017

Dr. Philip Harber, Ms. Jennifer Ha, and Mr. Matthew Roach