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J Occup Rehabil. 2013 Jun;23(2):157-61. doi: 10.1007/s10926-013-9448-7.

Introduction to the special section: sustainability of work with chronic health conditions.

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  • 1Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety, Hopkinton, MA 01748, USA.



The increasing prevalence of older workers and chronic health conditions represents a growing occupational health concern. More research is needed to understand risk factors, apply and adapt theories, and test workplace-focused interventions that might prevent work disability and disengagement among chronically ill workers.


A 2-h roundtable symposium involving 28 participants was held at an international conference (Second Scientific Conference on Work Disability Prevention & Integration, Groningen, The Netherlands) in October 2012. In that symposium, small groups of participants were invited to discuss theoretical, methodological, and implementation considerations for studying workplace function and well-being among workers with chronic health conditions. As a follow-up to the symposium, the organizers invited authors to submit original articles to a Special Section of the Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation for peer review and publication.


Results of the symposium reflected the need to address social, not just physical, aspects of the workplace, to include both individual-level and organizational interventions, and to integrate employer perspectives and operational models. Contributions to the Special Issue focus on outcome measurement, symptom self-management at work, job accommodations, prognostic factors for disability escalation, and the perceived needs of affected workers.


The content of the Special Section reflects an evolving body of research that continues to grapple with basic issues around choice of outcome measures, level of intervention, and the optimal ways to meet the needs of workers with chronic health conditions, including supporting efforts to manage symptoms and function at work. Future research should focus on integrating organizational and individual-level interventions.

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