Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness

Original Research

Exploring National Surveillance for Health-Related Workplace Absenteeism: Lessons Learned From the 2009 Influenza A Pandemic

Matthew R. Groenewolda1 c1, Doris L. Konickia2, Sara E. Luckhaupta1, Ahmed Gomaaa1 and Lisa M. Koonina3

a1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, , National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

a2 American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Elk Grove Village, Illinois, USA

a3 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Office of Infectious Diseases, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Abstract

Background During the 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did a pilot study to test the feasibility of using national surveillance of workplace absenteeism to assess the pandemic's impact on the workplace to plan for preparedness and continuity of operations and to contribute to health awareness during the emergency response.

Methods Population-based and sentinel worksite approaches were used. Monthly measures of the 1-week prevalence of health-related absenteeism among full-time workers were estimated using nationally representative data from the Current Population Survey. Enhanced passive surveillance of absenteeism was conducted using weekly data from a convenience sample of sentinel worksites.

Results Nationally, the pandemic's impact on workplace absenteeism was small. Estimates of 1-week absenteeism prevalence did not exceed 3.7%. However, peak workplace absenteeism was correlated with the highest occurrence of both influenza-like illness and influenza-positive laboratory tests.

Conclusions Systems for monitoring workplace absenteeism should be included in pandemic preparedness planning. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2013;0:1–7)

(Online publication March 26 2013)

Key Words

  • surveillance;
  • absenteeism;
  • influenza;
  • human

Correspondence

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to Matthew R. Groenewold, PhD, MSPH, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Division of Surveillance, Hazard Evaluations and Field Studies, 4676 Columbia Pkwy, MS R-17, Cincinnati, OH 45226 (e-mail: gyr5@cdc.gov).