Author Interviews, JAMA, Occupational Health, PTSD / 02.03.2018 Interview with: Dr. Lori Davis, MD Research and Development Service, Tuscaloosa Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, Department of Psychiatry, School of Medicine, University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa Tuscaloosa, Alabama What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) interfere with a person’s ability to function at work, making it harder to stay employed and establish oneself in a career.  Veterans with PTSD are uniquely challenged given their motivation to serve others, be leaders and not be generally receptive to reaching out for help. Conventional wisdom about PTSD and employment has traditionally been to first commit to treatment, learn coping skills, manage one’s symptoms and then reintegrate into mainstream employment. However, this view is being transformed by our research that suggests a more assertive recovery-oriented approach to the treatment of PTSD that involves returning to meaningful competitive employment as soon as possible. This study compared Evidence-based Supported Employment (also known as Individual Placement and Support or IPS) integrated within PTSD treatment teams to the treatment as usual Transitional Work model offered within the VA. This multisite trial demonstrated significantly greater effectiveness of the IPS-supported employment over stepwise, transitional work vocational rehabilitation for Veterans living with chronic PTSD. (more…)
Author Interviews, Baylor College of Medicine Houston, Kidney Disease, Occupational Health / 01.02.2018 Interview with: Dr. Kevin F. Erickson MD, MS Section of Nephrology and Selzman Institute for Kidney Health Baylor College of Medicine Houston, TX What is the background for this study? Response: An amendment to the Social Security Act passed in 1972 made it so nearly every person who develops end-stage renal disease – or ESRD – in the U.S. becomes eligible for Medicare, regardless of their age. At the time the law was passed, the bill’s supporters argued that access to life-sustaining dialysis therapy would enable patients to continue being productive members of society through work and activities at home. While the law has succeeded in providing access to dialysis therapy for many patients who would have otherwise died from kidney failure, it has been less successful at helping patients to continue working. The rate of employment among patients with ESRD who are receiving dialysis in the U.S. is low and has continued to decrease over time, despite both financial benefits from employment and evidence suggesting that patients who are employed experience improved quality of life and sense of wellbeing. We used a national ESRD registry to examine trends in employment between 1996 and 2013 among patients starting dialysis in the U.S. and in the six months before ESRD. Our goal was to determine whether difficulties that patients face when trying to work begin even before they develop ESRD. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Occupational Health / 04.11.2016 Interview with: Dr. Barry Sample PhD Senior director, science and technology Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions A business of Quest Diagnostics What is the background for this study of drug testing of the U.S. workforce? Response: As a leader in the drug testing industry, our primary goal at Quest Diagnostics Employer Solutions is to help employers maintain drug-free workplaces and combat the impacts of substance abuse such as higher absenteeism, increased risk of injury and lower productivity and performance. One way we support these efforts is to offer analysis and information from resources like the Quest Diagnostics Drug Testing Index™, which we publish as a public service for government, media, and industry. We’ve published the Drug Testing Index since 1988, which is also the year that Congress passed the Drug-Free Workplace Act. The Drug Testing Index examines positivity rates – the proportion of positive drug test results – among three major testing populations: federally-mandated, safety-sensitive workers; the general (private sector) U.S. workforce; and the combined U.S. workforce. Thresholds for positivity are determined by cutoff levels as established by the administrating authority; these cutoff levels determine the threshold for positivity for a specific substance. Should a metabolite appear at or above the level of the cutoff, a test is determined to be positive. Over the last few decades, testing policies have evolved to serve a dual purpose of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of both employees and the general public. That’s especially important in certain industries, such as transportation, where an impaired driver, pilot, or operator can create substantial public risk. The positivity rate in 1998, the year of the first Drug Testing Index, was 13.6 percent. Over the last 25 years, as we have tracked the overall positivity rate, we have noted other significant trends in the American workforce based on workplace drug tests. For example, our 2003 analysis revealed that amphetamine positivity had grown by 70 percent over the previous five years. The 2011 Drug Testing Index found that hydrocodone and oxycodone led U.S. general workforce positives. In both 2010 and 2011, the overall drug positivity rate was 3.5 percent, the lowest rate since we began publishing the Drug Testing Index. This year, we found positivity is at a ten-year high. What that tells us is that trends come and go, and that we cannot rely on assumptions about drug use. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cancer Research, Colon Cancer, Cost of Health Care, JAMA, Social Issues, University of Michigan / 23.12.2015 Interview with: Christine Veenstra MD Clinical Lecturer, Internal Medicine Medical Oncology University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI  48109-5343 MedicalResearch: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Veenstra: Patients with cancer face many costs and incur financial burden as they go through diagnosis and treatment. For working patients, cancer diagnosis and treatment may come with the additional burden of time away from work, lost income, and even long-term job loss. Although 40% of US workers do not have access to paid sick leave, we hypothesized that availability of paid sick leave could reduce the need to take unpaid time away from work during cancer treatment and might therefore be associated with job retention and reduced personal financial burden. In a survey of over 1300 patients with Stage III colorectal cancer, we found that only 55% of those who were employed at the time of their cancer diagnosis retained their jobs. Working patients with paid sick leave were nearly twice as likely to retain their jobs compared with working patients who did not have paid sick leave. This held true even when controlling for income, education and health insurance. Furthermore, working patients without paid sick reported significantly higher personal financial burden than those who had paid sick leave available. (more…)