resilient—adjusting to setbacks, increased demands, or unusual challenges by bouncing back to optimal “well-being” and performance without incurring severe functional decrement.
The traditional “occupational” and “nonoccupational” dichotomy that has been defined by predictable shifts and the 40-hour workweek is increasingly blurred by the changing demands of the contemporary American workplace (IOM, 2003a). Employers that have traditionally been responsible for safety, environmental, and occupational health concerns will, of necessity, become more involved with worklife issues, health behaviors, and social interactions. Adverse effects on employers of high health care costs and tight labor markets, particularly in engineering, create employer imperatives for engaging health beyond traditional occupational health and safety. Employers, including NASA, who must support a mission-directed, healthy, and optimally productive workforce will have to articulate a new vision, develop new strategies, and employ new tactics.
The health and safety of NASA’s diverse and geographically widespread employees are the concern of the Office of the Chief Health and Medical Officer (OCHMO). The goal of this office, in collaboration with the NASA vision, is to ensure that employees who join NASA should end their careers healthier than employees in other organizations as a result of their experience with NASA occupational and preventive health programs. NASA draws its workforce from the general population, and thus the American working population serves as a point of comparison.
Understanding important occupationally related health issues and trends among Americans is critical to understanding the health needs of NASA employees. Previous federal and Institute of Medicine (IOM) reports addressing relevant health, health care, occupational health, and American workforce issues provide important information that can illuminate and guide NASA’s efforts to achieve its broad goal of creating a comparatively healthier NASA workforce.
The Healthy People series, begun in 1979, was developed to address disparities in health status and outcomes between diverse population groups, and to improve the overall health of the nation (U.S. Public Health Service, 1979; USDHHS, 2000; www.healthypeople.gov/Publications).