NIOSH Urged to Broaden Focus, Visibility of Injury Prevention Research

A new report evaluating NIOSH's Traumatic Injury Research Program praises the work it is doing, giving it scores of 4 (with 5 being the maximum) on relevance and impact. The committee that wrote the 189-page report -- 11 leading academics and industry professionals chaired by Brian Strom, who chairs the Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics and the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine -- was formed by the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council to provide this analysis, the latest in a series of independent, scientific examinations of key NIOSH programs. NIOSH's acting director, Christine Branche, Ph.D., thanked the panelists Monday for their work and promised to prepare a draft implantation plan and take it to the NIOSH Board of Scientific Counselors.

The report, released Aug. 27 in draft form, is available at www.cdc.gov/niosh/nas/traumainj/pdfs/NA-TI-report-August2008.pdf. The recommendations begin on page 107. Highlights of the nine recommendations in the report include:

1. Work with other federal agencies, such as NHTSA, CPSC, DoD, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, that support injury prevention and control research.
2. Improve surveillance of nonfatal injuries. "The time has come for the TI Research Program to bolster its focus -- particularly starting with population-based surveillance--on nonfatal injuries without lessening the excellent work on fatal injuries," the report says. This requires working with OSHA to improve the usefulness of employers' mandatory injury logs and with BLS to improve the Annual Survey of Injuries and Illnesses, it says.
3. Collaborate with outside researchers.
4. Develop a plan to increase the pipeline of traumatic injury researchers because the field is not attracting enough young people. NIOSH has 17 Education Research Centers, but the research being done at these is focused more on health than on safety; the report suggests that the ERCs frame their "safety" programs more broadly to attract young people interested in technical careers.
5. Develop a strategic plan for evaluating NIOSH's ongoing research-to-practice efforts.
6. Consider doing research on the safety impacts of the changing nature of work, such as shifts from manufacturing to service industries, from full-time to temporary and part-time labor, and to leaner and more flexible production methods.

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