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Less than half of essential workers willing to report to work during a serious pandemic
Date:9/29/2010

September 28, 2010 Although first responders willingly put themselves in harm's way during disasters, new research indicates that they may not be as willing if the disaster is a potentially lethal pandemic.

In a recent study, researchers at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found that more than 50% of the first responders and other essential workers they surveyed might be absent from work during a serious pandemic, even if they were healthy.

The study, reported online in the October issue of the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, involved over 1100 workers recruited from six essential workgroups, all located in the New York metropolitan area. The workgroups included hospital employees, police and fire department personnel, emergency medical services workers, public health workers, and correctional facility officers.

The researchers found that while 80% of the workers would be able (i.e., available) to report to duty, only 65% were willing. Taken together, less than 50% of these key workers were both willing and able to report to duty. According to the lead author, Dr. Robyn Gershon, Professor of Clinical Sociomedical Sciences and Associate Dean for Research Resources at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, and Faculty Affiliate at Columbia University's National Center for Disaster Preparedness, "these data indicate that non-illness related shortfalls among essential workers could be substantial."

In anonymous surveys, workers reported on their willingness to work during a serious pandemic; the percent willing ranged from a high of 74% (public health workers) to a low of 56% (correctional workers). The researchers found that motivation to work during a serious pandemic was associated with workplace safety measures and trust in the employer's ability to protect workers from harm. Workers were also more willing to report to duty if their employer provided them wit
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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