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Critical Health Issues in International Spotlight

Media Release

Critical health issues under international spotlight

Years of neglect of workplace diseases is having a serious impact on New Zealand’s economy, according to the Asian Association of Occupational and Environmental Health.

The problem is one of several critical Asian Pacific health issues coming under international focus this week, when a global conference on occupational health begins in Wellington.

President of the Asian Association of Occupational and Environmental Health, Dr Edwin Whiteside says the triennial conference comes at a crucial time for the region, as countries comes to terms with the far-reaching impacts of occupational disease.

“For too long, the issues of preventing and treating occupational disease have been on the back-burner. This means for the economies of New Zealand and Australia, the burden of occupational disease is having a serious impact now, and will continue to do so in the future.

“It is only now the medical profession and wider community is coming to grips with the effects occupational illnesses and disease have on domestic and global economies.”

More than 300 delegates will be present for ACOH 2005, giving occupational health professionals the opportunity to focus on solutions for the growing impact of occupational disease. It is the first time in the conference’s 50-year history that New Zealand has hosted the event.

The conference will bring together expert speakers from New Zealand, Asia and the global occupational health community, and delegates will have the opportunity to be involved in issue sessions concerning key health topics. Delegates from a range of disciplines will be in attendance, including those from ergonomics, occupational therapy and physiotherapy, industrial hygiene and toxicology.

Issues under discussion include border security and biological threats, the impact of pandemics on the aviation industry, drugs and alcohol in the workplace, the risks of workplace chemicals and pesticides, and solutions for computer users with disabilities.

In addition, a selection of Wellington’s industrial and technical organisations will host site visits from conference attendees.

Edwin Whiteside says effective diagnosis, prevention and treatment for occupational disease will be under scrutiny at the conference.

“The personal and economic costs of occupational diseases like OOS are issues that affect a large variety of industries. But occupational health is also an issue that affects a diverse range of workers in specialised fields, from those in healthcare to border control staff.

“In recent years a lot of progress has been made in terms of increasing knowledge about occupational health, and improving services for work places. This conference gives occupational health professionals the chance to learn about the latest research, and the progress made towards meeting the present and future challenges for the Asia Pacific region.”

The conference is hosted by the Asian Association of Occupational and Environmental Health and supported by the New Zealand branch of the Australian and New Zealand Society of Occupational Medicine, and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, as well as a range of other occupational health professional organisations.

ACOH 2005 runs from Wednesday, May 11 to Friday, May 13 in the Wellington Convention Centre.


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