Economic evaluations of occupational health interventions

Work's impact on health is significant; long hours contribute to millions of deaths yearly. Occupational Health Management seeks to optimize this dynamic, but evaluating its financial benefits remains a challenge.

Factsheet

  • Lead school School of Health Professions
  • Institute Physiotherapy
  • Research unit Public Health und physiotherapiebezogene Gesundheitsökonomie
  • Duration (planned) 01.01.2019 - 31.12.2022
  • Project management Dr. Nathanael Lutz
  • Head of project Dr. Nathanael Lutz
  • Project staff Prof. Dr. Jan Taeymans
  • Keywords HealthPromotion, HealthEconomics, OccupationalHealthInterventions

Situation

In the European Union, 8% of the workforce faces work-related health issues, leading to 7.1 million disability-adjusted life years and a 476-billion-euro annual economic burden. Occupational Health Management (OHM) aims to optimize job demands to resource ratio, but investing in worker health faces challenges due to limited budgets and employer discretion. Economic evaluations (EEs) analyze OHM interventions' costs and benefits but face limitations due to varying national systems and methodologies.

Course of action

Four studies, including two systematic reviews, one study-based economic evaluation and one qualitative study, were conducted in the field of economic evaluations of occupational health measures. These evaluated current practices and methodological challenges in this field.

Result

A study reviewed 39 articles on OHM interventions in Europe, finding methodological flaws in many. While some cost-benefit analyses showed financial gains, and others deemed interventions cost-effective, disparities in perspectives and heterogeneous cost treatments hindered meaningful comparisons. Another study focused on worksite physical activity interventions, standardizing effects and recalculating costs for comparability. Small effects, possibly due to low participation, led to uncertain cost estimates. Interestingly, higher-quality EEs reported lower return on investment. In a trial-based EE, an influenza vaccination program initially appeared ineffective and costly. However, applying vaccination effectiveness estimates rendered it cost-beneficial. Methodological issues like selection bias were addressed using modeling techniques. To gain insights, OHM specialists were interviewed, revealing divergent perceptions of costs, benefits, and the evaluation of OHM. They emphasized intangible benefits overlooked in EEs and criticized controlled studies' suitability for OHM.

Looking ahead

These studies highlight challenges in evaluating OHM interventions, including methodological variations, uncertain cost estimations, and differing perceptions among specialists. Understanding the broader impacts and benefits, beyond direct costs, is crucial in assessing the true value of investing in worker health.

This project contributes to the following SDGs

  • 3: Good health and well-being