National Surveillance for Health-Related Workplace Absenteeism, United States 2017-18


During an influenza pandemic, when hospitals and doctors'™ offices are or are perceived to be overwhelmed, many ill people may not seek medical care. People may also avoid medical facilities due to fear of contracting influenza or transmitting it to others. Therefore, syndromic methods for monitoring illness outside of health care settings are important adjuncts to traditional disease reporting. Monitoring absenteeism trends in schools and workplaces provide the archetypal examples for such approaches. NIOSH's early experience with workplace absenteeism surveillance during the 2009 - 2010 H1N1 pandemic established that workplace absenteeism correlates well with the occurrence of influenza-like illness (ILI) and significant increases in absenteeism can signal concomitant peaks in disease activity. It also demonstrated that, while population-based absenteeism surveillance using nationally representative survey data is not as timely, it is more valid and reliable than surveillance based on data from sentinel worksites.1 In 2017, NIOSH implemented population-based, monthly surveillance of health-related workplace absenteeism among full-time workers.

Objective: To describe the methodology of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) system for national surveillance of health-related workplace absenteeism among full-time workers in the United States and to present initial findings from October through July of the 2017 - 2018 influenza season.

Primary Topic Areas: 
Original Publication Year: 
Event/Publication Date: 
January, 2019

June 18, 2019

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