UN Political Declaration on Tuberculosis Includes Language on Worker Health

Posted October 17, 2018

On Sept. 26, 2018, the International Commission on Occupational Health and the International Occupational Hygiene Association participated in the United Nations General Assembly meeting on tuberculosis in New York. The theme of the meeting, which was intended to accelerate efforts in ending TB, was “united to end tuberculosis: an urgent global response to a global epidemic.” At the meeting, Heads of State endorsed a political declaration on TB (PDF) that aims to strengthen action and investments to end the TB epidemic globally by 2030.

Efforts by ICOH, IOHA, and others led to the inclusion of suggested language related to workers in the declaration. Paragraph 17 identifies healthcare workers, miners, and others exposed to silica as high-risk, vulnerable groups. Later in the document, paragraph 31 refers to “implementing primary prevention in high-risk occupations by reducing silica dust exposure in mining, construction, and other dusty workplaces, and worker tuberculosis surveillance and infection prevention and control in healthcare settings.”

Marilyn Fingerhut, Perry Gottesfeld, Sophie Kisting, and Gwen Brachman represented ICOH at the meeting, and Andrea Hiddinga, the immediate past president of IOHA, represented her organization.

According to Hiddinga, the groups’ next steps will include the development of work plans to facilitate assistance to countries and organizations to implement workplace practices to reduce silica in workplaces and to protect health workers. These efforts will take place via the TB-Silica Subcommittee of the ICOH Scientific Committee on Mining Occupational Safety and Health, co-chaired by Fingerhut and Gottesfeld, and via the TB-Health Worker Subcommittee of the Scientific Committee on OH Health Workers, co-chaired by Brachman and Kisting.

IOHA intends to contribute to these work plans and is forming two subcommittees: one specializing in silica (mining and construction) and one specializing in the healthcare sector. AIHA members who are specialists in one of these or both areas who are interested in joining one of these subcommittees should email IOHA’s Andrea Hiddinga.