Public Health Expert Challenges Hygienists to Broaden Focus

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. -- Look at issues beyond the factory gates or the workplace's front door, Dr. Linda Rae Murrary, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer of Primary Care and Community Health for the Cook County, Ill., Ambulatory and Community Health Network, told attendees June 5 during her keynote speech at the American Industrial Hygiene Conference & Expo. Murray challenged the IH professionals in attendance to seek a higher profile, work in collaboration with public health professionals and their associations, and to examine and address issues in a broader social context.

"We're part and parcel of the public health infrastructure," Murray said. "We remain a field that's isolated, mired in litigation . . . . We're a field that's aging. We're a field that's challenged." Health and safety hazards faced by minority workers, wage insecurity, lack of health insurance coverage for many workers, and discrimination on the job are issues the profession should address, she said.

"We can't afford to ignore the social context that's happening around us, and we can't afford to have a profession that's not renewing itself," said Murray, an African-American. She frankly told her audience that the IH profession is too male and too white.

Old threats such as asbestosis and silicosis should not be controlled, she said -- they should be eliminated. The profession knows how to accomplish this but needs to find the political will to achieve it, she said.

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