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June 19, 1996

Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Author Affiliations

University of Massachusetts, Lowell; National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati, Ohio

JAMA. 1996;275(23):1831-1832. doi:10.1001/jama.1996.03530470059035

Occupational diseases, acknowledged from the time of Hippocrates, were first systematically described by Bernadino Ramazzini in De Morbis Artificum.1 In 1985, the World Health Organization expanded our understanding, introducing the concept of work-related diseases. This term brought new focus to the interaction of work and disease, a critically underappreciated area that the World Health Organization noted offered a wide range of opportunities for disease prevention and health promotion in most adults. Important developments concerning 2 increasingly common problems (asthma and low back pain) have brought new awareness of the impact of work on health.

In the United States, as elsewhere, a substantial increase in asthma morbidity and mortality has been noted with increased prevalence largely limited to those younger than 45 years, increased physician visits primarily among those older than 15 years, and increased mortality for those younger than 35 years.2 Attention to the role of work in