March 25, 2021

NIOSH Disaster Science Responder Research Program Releases Agenda for COVID-19

NIOSH’s Disaster Science Responder Research (DSRR) Program has published its COVID-19 Research Agenda (PDF), which is intended to serve as a framework for planning the agency’s occupational health research efforts relevant to the ongoing pandemic response. The agenda describes nine “critical topic areas” identified by the DSRR Program leadership as significant for protecting worker safety and health amid the COVID-19 pandemic: economics, engineering controls, epidemiology and surveillance, mental health, occupational environment and exposure assessment, occupational violence, personal protective equipment, SARS-CoV-2 transmission and occupational health, and zoonoses, or diseases that can be transmitted to humans from animals. For each topic area, a team of NIOSH subject matter experts has developed a list of prioritized goals—needs that must be addressed in order for research to move forward in that area.

The new research agenda will be updated regularly to reflect changes in NIOSH’s research priorities, and it complements and expands on areas of CDC’s Science Agenda for COVID-19 that are relevant to occupational health. The authors of NIOSH’s research agenda emphasize that research should focus on issues relevant to essential workers who conduct operations and services that ensure the continuity of the United States’ most critical functions. They also stress that COVID-19 research should identify and address health inequities experienced by populations such as workers from racial and ethnic minority groups, workers with limited English language proficiency, workers with lower incomes, workers with disabilities, and workers who are immigrants. According to NIOSH, these workers have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and evidence-based solutions are necessary to improve their health outcomes.

NIOSH founded its DSRR Program in 2015 to develop timely, scalable approaches for occupational health research so that research may be started quicky in the event of a disaster or public health emergency. Its goals include identifying the most important areas of research; addressing logistical, technical, and administrative challenges; identifying data collection capabilities and information resources; and communicating research findings.

More information can be found on NIOSH’s webpages for its COVID-19 Research Agenda and DSRR Program. A previous news article published by AIHA provides further details about the CDC Science Agenda for COVID-19.