Detecting new disease-exposure associations is an important public health issue. We created a pilot network (MAREL - MAlattie e Rischi Emergenti sul Lavoro) of occupational disease consultation centres of Italian university hospitals to which patients are referred for potentially work-related diseases.Methods
The MAREL network currently includes five occupational disease consultation centres of university hospitals located in central-northern Italy. Patients are referred to these consultation centres by their general practitioners, occupational physicians or other specialists for the investigation of the putative occupational origin of the disease. Each centre collects cases of putative occupational origin through a structured and standardised data collection form. We collect data on: diagnosis; personal habits; occupational history; exposure assessment for potentially associated risk factors; physician’s opinion on the possible causal relationship between disease and occupation. Data are coded according to national and international classifications.Results
The data collection started in 2016. We collected 1516 cases of putative occupational diseases. Intervertebral lumbar disc degeneration was the most represented condition (n=170, 11.2%). Apart from musculoskeletal disorders, cases of asthma were the most frequently reported (n=59, 3.9%). About 11% of patients were construction workers. The most frequently reported exposures were: manual material handling (29.5%, out of 1811), hand-arm vibrations (13.9%), and repetitive movements of the upper limb (10.9%).Discussion
The MAREL network will be expanded to other occupational disease consultation centres in 2017 with the aim to contribute to already existing surveillance systems (i.e. MALPROF) by the detection of new and emerging occupational diseases and risks.