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ERGONOMICS  September 2008

ERGONOMICS September 2008

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Subject:

Re: Is the QPS Nordic Questionnaire widely used by ergonomists?

From:

David McFarlane <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

David McFarlane <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 10 Sep 2008 04:51:17 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Parts/Attachments

text/plain (118 lines)

Dear Andrew,

Do you know if anyone is using this questionnaire to screen for workers who 
need medical who might need medical follow-up tests (such as checking blood 
pressure and resting heart rate)? A few years ago I read that employees who 
report high stress levels are more likely to be hypertensive (suffering from high 
blood pressure) than those who do not (Capriotti et al, 2000). A US study that 
looked at "a midsize corporation" found that almost all of the employees (96% 
of those tested) assumed their blood pressures were normal but blood pressure 
tests revealed that in reality 30% of them were hypertensive. This shows that 
despite widespread publicity about the dangers of cardiovascular disease there 
is a need for a population-wide detection program. The prevention of 
hypertension should be a high priority goal for preventive health care 
campaigns.

At around the same time a survey of an English university community (Getliffe 
et al, 2000) found that 30% of the respondents had not had their blood 
pressure measured in the previous two years and 51% of the known 
hypertensives were not adequate getting medical treatment to control their 
condition. The authors concluded that improvements in detecting and 
controlling hypertension will be needed if we want to reach current public 
health targets for reducing the incidence of heart disease and stroke are to be 
achieved. They suggested that worksite screening programmes would be 
helpful. Has that happened?

Recent news stories suggest that these have not been effective (if they 
happened at all). A recent UK press release ("40 Percent Of UK Population 
Have High Blood Pressure", 14 Feb 2008) reported that the BPA’s "Know Your 
Numbers" campaign checked the blood pressure of about5 250,000 volunteers 
and found that in some areas of England (such as Yorkshire, Humberside and 
the West Midlands) 45% of the people tested were suffering from hypertension.
See http://www.1888pressrelease.com/40-percent-of-uk-population-have-
high-blood-pressure-pr-r004x4he9.html

The HSE report on health and ageing "Working for a healthier tomorrow" 
(Report No HSL/2005/20, 2008) has made some admirable recommendations on 
improving public health generally and improving the health of the workforce in 
particular. See Working for a healthier tomorrow.

It has highlighted the huge cost of sickness and disability amongst ageing 
people who are still "of working age". The authors assume that this lasts until 
pension age (i.e 65 for men).  But is this a reasonable assumption? A recent 
article on East Glasgow in The Times noted that "Glasgow East is a hard place 
to live, and a grotesquely easy place to die. In parts of the constituency, male 
life expectancy is 54, lower than The Gambia, nearly a decade lower than 
Bangladesh, and about 24 years below the national average. Move just a few 
miles to leafy Bearsden and you will live, on average, 30 years longer. ... 
Glasgow East has the highest proportion of voters on incapacity benefit or 
disability allowance ... and, in parts, unemployment has reached 50 per cent." 
See http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4318994.ece  or
Inside Glasgow East, where Gordon Brown's a cursed name - Times Online  

There appears to be a huge scope for improvement. If we do not detect and 
control hypertension in our middle aged workforce we have not advanced very 
far since the dark ages. Research at the medieval Danish village of Tirup 
showed that before the advent of modern medicine people were lucky to live 
past 50. In those days a third of the people in Tirup died in their fifties, much 
as they doing in modern Glasgow.
See http://www.demogr.mpg.de/Papers/Books/Monograph2/patterns.htm  
[The basic differences in the mortality patterns of medieval Danes 
and "contemporary" Danes are clearly illustrated in Figure 1.]

 In Australia and Japan life expectancy is increasing and these reductions in 
mortality are mainly due to improvements in cardiovascular health - see
Life expectancy, males  or www.aihw.gov.au/publications/phe/ihhac/ihhac-
c05a.pdf.  
Even in the UK the average person born in 1951 near the height of the post-
war baby boom can expect to live to 75 (Gallop, 2002). This could create 
economic problems if workers retire due to ill health or cannot save enough so 
that they can retire to live a life of affluent leisure (Bloom et al, 2007). It 
follows that we need to make a greater effort to insure that people remain 
healthy until the end of their expected working life. 

We can only hope that governments will fund workplace stress research 
programs that leads to practical improvements in the health of the workforce! 
I would be interested to hear your take on this.

Regards,

David McFarlane MAppSc (Ergonomics)
Ergonomist, WorkCover NSW

References

Capriotti T, Kirby LG, Smeltzer S, (2000), " Unrecognized high blood pressure. 
A major public health issue for the workplace", AAOHN J, 2000 Jul, 48, (7), pp 
38-43.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11261183

Getliffe KA, Crouch R, Gage H, Lake F, Wilson S, (2000), "Hypertension 
awareness, detection and treatment in a university community: results of a 
worksite screening", Public Health, 2000 Sep, 114, (5), pp 361-6.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11035457

Adrian Gallop, (2002), "Ageing in the United Kingdom ". See
www.actuaries.org.uk/__data/assets/powerpoint_doc/0016/21328/gallop.ppt

D Bloom, D Canning and Michael Moore, (2007), "Optimal Retirement and 
Saving with Healthy Aging", 17 September 2007. Harvard Initiative for Global 
Health. See 
Optimal Retirement and Saving with Healthy Aging

PS

According to the Shaw Trust nearly one in five people of working age (6.9 
million, or 19%) in Great Britain are disabled and there are currently 1.2 million 
disabled people in the UK who are available for and want to work. See 
http://www.shaw-trust.org.uk/page/6/89/. Can you tell me if people of 
working age with general ill health such as cardiovascular health problems are 
classified as "disabled"?

Disclaimer

Any recommendation concerning the use or representation of a particular 
brand of product in this document or any mention of them whatsoever 
(whether this appears in the text, illustrations, photographs or in any other 
form) is not to be taken to imply that WorkCover NSW approves or endorses 
the product or the brand.

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