The latest medical research on Occupational & Environmental Medicine

The research magnet gathers the latest research from around the web, based on your specialty area. Below you will find a sample of some of the most recent articles from reputable medical journals about occupational & environmental medicine gathered by our medical AI research bot.

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Improving and Expanding Estimates of the Global Burden of Disease Due to Environmental Health Risk Factors.

Environmental Health Perspectives

The Global Burden of Disease (GBD) study, coordinated by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), produces influential, data-driven estimates of the burden of disease and premature death due to major risk factors. Expanded quantification of disease due to environmental health (EH) risk factors, including climate change, will enhance accuracy of GBD estimates, which will contribute to developing cost-effective policies that promote prevention and achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

We review key aspects of the GBD for the EH community and introduce the Global Burden of Disease-Pollution and Health Initiative (GBD-PHI), which aims to work with IHME and the GBD study to improve estimates of disease burden attributable to EH risk factors and to develop an innovative approach to estimating climate-related disease burden-both current and projected.

We discuss strategies for improving GBD quantification of specific EH risk factors, including air pollution, lead, and climate change. We highlight key methodological challenges, including new EH risk factors, notably evidence rating and global exposure assessment.

A number of issues present challenges to the scope and accuracy of current GBD estimates for EH risk factors. For air pollution, minimal data exist on the exposure-risk relationships associated with high levels of pollution; epidemiological studies in high pollution regions should be a research priority. For lead, the GBD's current methods do not fully account for lead's impact on neurodevelopment; innovative methods to account for subclinical effects are needed. Decisions on inclusion of additional EH risk-outcome pairs need to be guided by findings of systematic reviews, the size of exposed populations, feasibility of global exposure estimates, and predicted trends in exposures and diseases. Neurotoxicants, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and climate-related factors should be high priorities for incorporation into upcoming iterations of the GBD study. Enhancing the scope and methods will improve the GBD's estimates and better guide prevention policy. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP5496.

Unveiling the complexities of mild stroke: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of the mild stroke experience.

Australian Occupational Therapy Journal

Limited research has been conducted from a longitudinal and qualitative perspective on the experience of life after mild stroke. This restricts the knowledge held in this area. This study aimed to answer the question: How do people with mild stroke understand their experiences in the first 6 months after hospital discharge?

Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, involving five Australians with mild stroke, interviewed at 1-, 3- and 6 months post-hospital discharge.

Two themes emerged about the transitional journeys post-mild stroke: (i) Understanding and representation of stroke and (ii) Underlying relationship dynamics revealed. The first theme had two subthemes: (i) Society defines the stroke experience, and (ii) The past determines the present. The first of these reflected the impact that societal perceptions of 'stroke' had on participants' views of their mild stroke, including feelings of being 'lucky' even when experiencing hidden difficulties that were viewed as liveable repercussions. The second explores how previous health conditions acted as a mediator for participants' experiences of the mild stroke and how personal attributes assisted adaption to post-mild stroke changes. The final theme highlights how participants' relationships were either strengthened or weakened after the mild stroke, dependent on previous relationship dynamics.

Current societal perceptions of stroke are centred on 'observable' symptoms; however, more subtle symptoms common in the mild stroke population remain widely unknown by the general public impacting post-mild stroke experiences. Previous health conditions and personal attributes have an impact on how people react to their mild stroke and help to explain the individualist nature of mild stroke outcomes. Relationship dynamics prior to mild stroke can impact on post-mild stroke family functioning, and should be screened for, and supported by health professionals. All of these factors emphasise the need for a patient-centred and multidisciplinary approach when determining interventions.

Thriving in an expanding service landscape: Experiences of occupational therapists working in generic mental health roles within non-government organisations in Australia.

Australian Occupational Therapy Journal

Occupational therapists are an integral part of Australian mental health services. Recent changes in the mental health sector mean that increasing numbers of occupational therapists now work in generic, non-profession-specific roles in non-government organisations. Previous research has identified a range of challenges faced by occupational therapists in generic roles, including reduced satisfaction and loss of professional identity. An exploration of potentially positive aspects and strategies that assist occupational therapists to succeed and flourish within generic roles is lacking. The aim of this study was to explore what assists occupational therapists to thrive within generic roles in Australia's non-government mental health sector.

Semi-structured, in-depth interviews were conducted with 12 occupational therapists working in generic mental health roles across three non-government organisations spanning three Australian states. Data were analysed thematically using constant comparative analysis.

Thriving was supported in three domains. First, occupational therapists facilitated their own thriving by keeping their occupational therapy lens, and managing ambiguity. Second, workplaces were supportive when their values aligned with occupational therapy core values, they recognised and valued the occupational therapy contribution, and their roles allowed opportunities for therapists to use their profession-specific skills. Third, the broader occupational therapy profession assisted thriving through preparation, validation and ongoing inclusion.

Despite some challenges, occupational therapists can and do thrive in generic non-government mental health roles. The preliminary framework of thriving provides valuable insights for those developing university curricula, those providing continuing professional development opportunities and for individual occupational therapists entering this expanding area of practice. Findings also provide insights into how individuals, academic curricula and the profession can respond and adapt to systemic transformations occurring in mental health service delivery.

Effectiveness of occupational therapy intervention for people with Parkinson's disease: Systematic review.

Australian Occupational Therapy Journal

Occupational therapists commonly provide intervention that promotes quality of life in people with Parkinson's disease. Existing research supports the effects of multidisciplinary and motor intervention for people with Parkinson's disease. However, few studies have identified the effectiveness of occupational therapy intervention alone. The aim of this review was to examine the efficacy of interventions provided by occupational therapists for people with Parkinson's disease.

A comprehensive database search of the literature was performed using Medline, EMBASE, PsycInfo and CINAHL between 2003 and January 2018. There were no restrictions on study design and studies with or without a control group were selected for review. Studies were included if intervention consisted of at least 50% of occupational therapy intervention for Parkinson's disease. Two independent reviewers extracted and synthesised data from relevant articles.

In all, 10 studies representing data from 1,343 people with Parkinson's disease and 180 caregivers were included in this review. Occupational therapy interventions focussing on meaningful activities were shown to improve perceived occupational performance. Upper limb therapy programmes were shown to improve upper limb function in the short term though longer-term effects are unclear.

Current research supports interventions which are intermittent, short term and intensive and involve tailored therapy plans working towards an individual's goals. Occupational therapists should implement goal-oriented intervention programmes in conjunction with following the guidance of existing best practice guidelines.

Feasibility of increasing the dosage of inpatient occupational therapy and physiotherapy rehabilitation via independent tasks and exercises: 'My Therapy'.

Australian Occupational Therapy Journal

The dosage of occupational therapy and physiotherapy positively correlates with rehabilitation patient and health service outcomes. Nevertheless, increasing the dosage during inpatient rehabilitation without additional resources can be challenging. This study aimed to determine feasibility of increasing the dosage of inpatient occupational therapy and physiotherapy rehabilitation with independent tasks and exercises outside of supervised sessions, the 'My Therapy' programme.

A two-group, quasi-experimental, pre-post-design examined feasibility of delivering My Therapy in addition to usual care, compared to usual care alone, for hospitalised musculoskeletal and frail older rehabilitation patients. My Therapy was prescribed by the occupational therapist and physiotherapist. A booklet was provided with an individually tailored set of tasks and exercises that were a sub-set of routine therapy, to be practised safely, effectively and independently outside of supervised sessions. The primary outcome was feasibility of My Therapy implementation to achieve at least 70% adherence. Secondary outcomes were self-reported daily My Therapy participation (minutes), total daily rehabilitation participation (minutes), adverse events, length of stay, 10-metre walk speed, FIM scores and discharge destination.

Participation in My Therapy was achieved by 72% (83/116) of the My Therapy group, who averaged 14 min (SD 14) of daily practice outside of supervised sessions. Total daily rehabilitation participation was 177 min (SD 47) for My Therapy participants (n = 116) and 148 min (SD 88) for usual care participants (n = 89); mean difference 30 min (p = .00). A minimal clinically important difference in FIM was achieved for a significantly higher portion of the My Therapy group (22%, n = 26) compared to usual care (10%, n = 9; p = .02). There were no adverse events, safety concerns or group differences for other secondary outcomes.

My Therapy was a feasible and safe way to increase the dosage of inpatient occupational therapy and physiotherapy rehabilitation via independent practice. Clinical Trial Registry: ACTRN12616000691448.

Occupational therapist use of the 'Timed Up and Go' test in a Memory Clinic to compare performance between cognitive diagnoses and screen for falls risk.

Australian Occupational Therapy Journal

Occupational therapists assess older patients attending Memory Clinics to address multiple facets, including memory, activities of daily living function, mobility and falls risk. Identifying deficits in motor and functional abilities represents a crucial and necessary component of cognitive diagnosis. The aim of this research was to compare performance on the TUG between patients with normal (NC), mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia.

A prospective single-blind single-centre cohort study was conducted in a Memory Clinic. Patients underwent comprehensive medical assessment, including the Mini Mental Status Examination (MMSE) to determine a cognitive diagnosis. The occupational therapist, blinded to any diagnosis, completed the TUG.

A total of 158 patients aged 60 years and older were recruited. The average TUG was 15.4 s, which was similar between men and women (p = .87). A TUG greater than ≥14 s was significantly associated with the use of a walking aid (p ≤ .001). The TUG increased with age and a slower TUG was associated with a greater number of previous falls (p = .023). The TUG did not significantly differ between patients with dementia, MCI and NC (p = .095). However, there was a significant difference comparing patients with NC and MCI (14.3 s) to those with dementia (16.4 s) (p = .048). There was a significant weak negative correlation between the MMSE and the TUG of -0.253 (p = .003). Univariate models showed that a patient's ability to ambulate independently contributed to 33% of the variance in the TUG, whereas previous falls contributed to 4%, highlighting the importance of physical function and intervention to target this.

A simple TUG test should be considered for use by occupational therapists in a Memory Clinic to screen patients at risk of falling. Patients diagnosed with dementia have a significantly slower TUG. However, this tool cannot assist with the early detection of patients with MCI.

Accelerated lung function decline in an aluminium manufacturing industry cohort exposed to PM2.5: an application of the parametric g-formula.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine

Occupational dust exposure has been associated with accelerated lung function decline, which in turn is associated with overall morbidity and mortality. In the current study, we assess potential benefits on lung function of hypothetical interventions that would reduce occupational exposure to fine particulate matter (PM2.5) while adjusting for the healthy worker survivor effect.

Analyses were performed in a cohort of 6485 hourly male workers in an aluminium manufacturing company in the USA, followed between 1996 and 2013. We used the parametric g-formula to assess lung function decline over time under hypothetical interventions while also addressing time-varying confounding by underlying health status, using a composite risk score based on health insurance claims.

A counterfactual scenario envisioning a limit on exposure equivalent to the 10th percentile of the observed exposure distribution of 0.05 mg/m3 was associated with an improvement in forced expiratory volume in one second (FEV1) equivalent to 37.6 mL (95% CI 13.6 to 61.6) after 10 years of follow-up when compared with the observed. Assuming a linear decrease and (from NHANES reference values), a 20 mL decrease per year for a 1.8 m-tall man as they age, this 37.6 mL FEV1 loss over 10 years associated with observed exposure would translate to approximately a 19% increase to the already expected loss per year from age alone.

Our results indicate that occupational PM2.5 exposure in the aluminium industry accelerates lung function decline over age. Reduction in exposure may mitigate accelerated loss of lung function over time in the industry.

Differential effect of Hurricane Sandy exposure on PTSD symptom severity: comparison of community members and responders.

Occupational and Environmental Medicine

To evaluate whether the association between Hurricane Sandy exposures and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptom severity was greater for exposed community members compared with responders.

Data were analysed from three existing studies with similar methodologies (N=1648): two community studies, Leaders in Gathering Hope Together (n=531) and Project Restoration (n=763); and the Sandy/World Trade Center Responders Study (n=354). Sandy-related PTSD symptoms were measured using the PTSD checklist-specific traumatic event and dichotomised as elevated (>30) versus low/no (<30) PTSD symptoms. Sandy exposures were measured with a summed checklist. Multivariable logistic regression was performed to evaluate the differential effect of exposures on PTSD by responder status, adjusting for demographics and time elapsed since Sandy.

Responders were somewhat older (50.5 years (SD=8.3) vs 45.8 years (SD=20.0)), more likely to identify as white (92.4% vs 48.1%) and were male (90.7% vs 38.4%). Responders were less likely to have elevated PTSD symptoms than community members (8.6% vs 31.1%; adjusted OR=0.28, 95% CI 0.17 to 0.46). While exposure was significantly related to elevated PTSD status, the effects were similar for responders and community members.

Responders appear to be more resilient to PTSD symptoms post-Sandy than community members. Understanding the mechanisms that foster such resilience can inform interventions aimed at populations that are more vulnerable to experiencing PTSD after natural disasters.

Diet as a Source of Exposure to Environmental Contaminants for Pregnant Women and Children from Six European Countries.

Environmental Health Perspectives

Pregnant women and children are especially vulnerable to exposures to food contaminants, and a balanced diet during these periods is critical for optimal nutritional status.

Our objective was to study the association between diet and measured blood and urinary levels of environmental contaminants in mother-child pairs from six European birth cohorts ( n = 818 mothers and 1,288 children).

We assessed the consumption of seven food groups and the blood levels of organochlorine pesticides, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), and heavy metals and urinary levels of phthalate metabolites, phenolic compounds, and organophosphate pesticide (OP) metabolites. Organic food consumption during childhood was also studied. We applied multivariable linear regressions and targeted maximum likelihood based estimation (TMLE).

Maternal high ( ≥ 4   times / week ) versus low ( < 2   times / week ) fish consumption was associated with 15% higher PCBs [geometric mean (GM) ratio = 1.15 ; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.02, 1.29], 42% higher perfluoroundecanoate (PFUnDA) ( GM   ratio = 1.42 ; 95% CI: 1.20, 1.68), 89% higher mercury (Hg) ( GM   ratio = 1.89 ; 95% CI: 1.47, 2.41) and a 487% increase in arsenic (As) ( GM   ratio = 4.87 ; 95% CI: 2.57, 9.23) levels. In children, high ( ≥ 3   times / week ) versus low ( < 1.5   times / week ) fish consumption was associated with 23% higher perfluorononanoate (PFNA) ( GM   ratio = 1.23 ; 95% CI: 1.08, 1.40), 36% higher PFUnDA ( GM   ratio = 1.36 ; 95% CI: 1.12, 1.64), 37% higher perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) ( GM   ratio = 1.37 ; 95% CI: 1.22, 1.54), and > 200 % higher Hg and As [ GM   ratio = 3.87 (95% CI: 1.91, 4.31) and GM   ratio = 2.68 (95% CI: 2.23, 3.21)] concentrations. Using TMLE analysis, we estimated that fish consumption within the recommended 2-3 times/week resulted in lower PFAS, Hg, and As compared with higher consumption. Fruit consumption was positively associated with OP metabolites. Organic food consumption was negatively associated with OP metabolites.

Fish consumption is related to higher PFAS, Hg, and As exposures. In addition, fruit consumption is a source of exposure to OPs. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP5324.

Evidence for Bisphenol B Endocrine Properties: Scientific and Regulatory Perspectives.

Environmental Health Perspectives

The substitution of bisphenol A (BPA) by bisphenol B (BPB), a very close structural analog, stresses the need to assess its potential endocrine properties.

This analysis aimed to investigate whether BPB has endocrine disruptive properties in humans and in wildlife as defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) definition used in the regulatory field, that is, a) adverse effects, b) endocrine activity, and c) plausible mechanistic links between the observed endocrine activity and adverse effects.

We conducted a systematic review to identify BPB adverse effects and endocrine activities by focusing on animal models and in vitro mechanistic studies. The results were grouped by modality (estrogenic, androgenic, thyroid hormone, steroidogenesis-related, or other endocrine activities). After critical analysis of results, lines of evidence were built using a weight-of-evidence approach to establish a biologically plausible link. In addition, the ratio of BPA to BPB potency was reported from studies investigating both bisphenols.

Among the 36 articles included in the analysis, 3 subchronic studies consistently reported effects of BPB on reproductive function. In rats, the 28-d and 48-week studies showed alteration of spermatogenesis associated with a lower height of the seminiferous tubules, the alteration of several sperm parameters, and a weight loss for the testis, epididymis, and seminal vesicles. In zebrafish, the results of a 21-d reproductive study demonstrated that exposed fish had a lower egg production and a lower hatching rate and viability. The in vitro and in vivo mechanistic data consistently demonstrated BPB's capacity to decrease testosterone production and to exert an estrogenic-like activity similar to or greater than BPA's, both pathways being potentially responsible for spermatogenesis impairment in rats and fish.

The available in vivo, ex vivo, and in vitro data, although limited, coherently indicates that BPB meets the WHO definition of an endocrine disrupting chemical currently used in a regulatory context. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP5200.

Evaluating tobacco retailer experience and compliance with a flavoured tobacco product restriction in Boston, Massachusetts: impact on product availability, advertisement and consumer demand.

Tobacco Control

Flavoured tobacco products are widely available in youth-accessible retailers and are associated with increased youth initiation and use. The city of Boston, Massachusetts restricted the sale of flavoured tobacco products, including cigars, smokeless tobacco and e-cigarettes, to adult-only retailers. This paper describes the impact of the restriction on product availability, advertisement and consumer demand.

Between January and December 2016, data were collected in 488 retailers in Boston at baseline and 469 retailers at 8-month follow-up, measuring the type, brand and flavour of tobacco products being sold. Process measures detailing the educational enforcement process, and retailer experience were also captured. McNemar tests and t-tests were used to assess the impact of the restriction on product availability.

After policy implementation, only 14.4% of youth-accessible retailers sold flavoured products compared with 100% of retailers at baseline (p<0.001). Flavoured tobacco product advertisements decreased from being present at 58.9% of retailers to 28.0% at follow-up (p<0.001). Postimplementation, retailers sold fewer total flavoured products, with remaining products often considered as concept flavours (eg, jazz, blue). At follow-up, 64.0% of retailers reported that customers only asked for flavoured products a few times a week or did not ask at all. Retailers reported that educational visits and the flavoured product guidance list aided with compliance.

Tobacco retailers across Boston were largely in compliance with the regulation. Availability of flavoured tobacco products in youth-accessible retailers declined city-wide after policy implementation. Strong educational and enforcement infrastructure may greatly enhance retailer compliance.

Air pollution is not 'the new smoking': comparing the disease burden of air pollution and smoking across the globe, 1990-2017.

Tobacco Control

Air pollution has been labelled the 'new smoking', with news articles bearing titles such as 'If You Live in a Big City You Already Smoke Every Day...