Evidence-based Occupational Health

In evidence-based medicine (EBM), medical decisions are not made solely on the basis of the opinions and experience of individual experts. Instead, they are informed by findings that draw on the best evidence available from patient-centred research.

Evidence-based occupational Health
© Uwe Völkner, Fotoagentur FOX

Systematic literature reviews are core elements of evidence-based decision-making. In addition to clinical expertise and scientific evidence, the preferences expressed by patients, the public, or employees also feed into the clinical practice of EBM.

What is evidence-based occupational medicine?

Evidence-based occupational medicine applies the principles of evidence-based medicine to work-related health issues. This involves, for example, assessing the effectiveness of preventive interventions, which range from organisational measures to occupational health screening by company physicians and return to work support programmes.

Even though experimental research design remains the gold standard for those evaluating the effectiveness of therapeutic, rehabilitative, or preventive interventions, evidence-based medicine is not limited to randomised controlled studies and meta-analyses. For example, cohort studies are ideal for the investigation of work-related health risk factors. The application and adaptation of evidence-based methodologies and instruments for observational studies also fall within the scope of evidence-based occupational epidemiology. What is more, qualitative research methodologies in particular are appropriate ways of gaining a better understanding of complex interactions and analysing which measures are effective, why, and under what circumstances. This is crucial primarily for the transfer of evidence-based findings into practice. Evidence-based (occupational) medicine therefore involves searching for the best evidence, while giving consideration to the most appropriate study design for each concrete problem.

Transferring evidence-based knowledge into practice

Depending on the target group, there are different formats for the transfer of evidence-based findings into practice. For example, evidence-based health publicity materials are suitable for conveying well-balanced information to patients, the public, or employees.

Medical guidelines are developed to make knowledge available for practising physicians so they can draw on it when setting priorities and taking decisions. Apart from this, the German Network for Evidence-Based Medicine (Deutsches Netzwerk Evidenzbasierte Medizin e.V.) is committed to the dissemination of EBM concepts and methodologies to practitioners, teachers, and researchers.

The application and further development of evidence-based methodologies in occupational medicine is also an important field of work for the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (Bundesanstalt für Arbeitsschutz und Arbeitsmedizin, BAuA). The increasing demand for evidence-based information and decision-making from scientists, policymakers, and the expert community is consequently being reflected in OSH practice.

Apart from the development of evidence-based methodologies in occupational medicine, BAuA prepares systematic reviews of OSH issues and collaborates on the drafting of occupational medical guidelines.

Further Information

More about Occupational Health Prevention