AAOHN Public Policy Platform

As the predominant professional organization for occupational and environmental health nurses, the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses, Inc. (AAOHN) and its members actively advocate for legislation and workplace policies to safeguard the health and safety of workers, their families and surrounding communities.  Occupational and environmental health nurses (OHNs) work individually and collectively at the local, state, national and international levels to support legislative, regulatory, and public policy efforts that positively impact occupational and environmental health.
 
AAOHN uses a variety of strategies to address emerging issues in workplace health and safety, professional practice and public policy.  Members of the AAOHN Public Affairs Committee respond to petitions for rulemaking and comment on proposed legislation and health policies.  Currently, the AAOHN Public Policy Platform includes four broad priority areas for support. Each priority reflects global and domestic trends which pose threats toward and opportunities for the nursing profession, health care at the population level, and economic stability and global competitiveness of employers within the United States (US) and at their international locations.  Advocacy efforts for AAOHN are prioritized to: 

  • Improve Worker Health and Safety 
  • Protect Public and Environmental Health
  • Promote Population Health  
  • Support Professional Nursing Practice 

 IMPROVE WORKER HEALTH AND SAFETY 
 A cornerstone of AAOHN’s mission is to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all working American’s through improved regulatory standards. Workplace policies and programs which protect against injury or illness and promote health are imperative because adults spend so many of their waking hours at work. Further, medical costs associated with occupational injuries and illnesses adversely impact the costs to employers and the U.S. health care system. Occupational and environmental health nurses advocate for workers and strong workplace health and safety programs regardless of industry classification, location or size.  To improve worker health and safety, AAOHN: 

  • Partners with other professional organizations whose missions are to protect and improve worker health and safety, including the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the American Industrial Hygiene Association, and the American Society of Safety Engineers among others;
  • Collaborates with agencies such as the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) within the United States;
  • Supports federal and state legislation to improve worker and workplace health and safety;
  • Recommends increased use of electronic gathering and reporting of work-related injuries, illnesses and fatalities;
  • Supports the Global Plan of Action on Workers’ Health 2008-2017 and endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2007;
  • Collaborates with the International Commission on Occupational Health and its many Scientific Committees such as Occupational Health Nursing and Education and Training among others; 
  • Participates on advisory committees to provide recommendations to legislators and international occupational health organizations; 
  • Advises policy-making regarding health care benefits for employees and employer practices that affect the workplace and surrounding community environment; 
  • Endorses allocation of state, federal and international funds to support research and public health programs that impact national and international employee health, wellness and safety; and
  • Supports programs that increase health literacy among workers and cultural competence in the OHN workforce;

PROTECT PUBLIC AND ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH 
The goal of public health is to protect all people from adverse health effects where they live, work, and play regardless of where that might be. As global travel and international commerce continues to expand, AAOHN members are called on to protect workers at worksites within the United States and globally. Inadequate work process management practices also pose risks for environmental hazard exposures among workers at their job site. Additionally, those same environmental hazards may affect workers as well as their family and other community residents when contaminants are carried into homes and communities on workers’ clothing, circulated in dust via air currents, washed by rain into local streams and rivers, or seeped into ground water reservoirs.  Sound public health policies and practices are required at home and abroad for OHNs to practice effectively. To protect public and environmental health, AAOHN:   

  • Endorses strategies that strengthen the nation’s public health system;
  • Encourages continued funding for education of the nursing and public health workforce, including those specializing in occupational and environmental health practice areas;
  • Requests adequate funding and appropriations within the United States for public health agencies, including the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as well as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
  • Supports international efforts to increase global public health by the World Health Organization (WHO); 
  • Endorses international efforts to eliminate environmental risk factors, such as poor air quality, noise pollution, improper waste disposal, and contaminated water supplies;
  • Supports federal and state legislation that protects the environmental health of individuals and their communities;
  • Recommends identification of chemicals that are a threat to health and safe work practices and pose a risk of chemical exposures within communities; and
  • Encourages participation by OHNs and employers in community and global disaster preparedness and response. 


PROMOTE POPULATION HEALTH  
 
Health care costs to employers and the public far exceed those of other countries, yet the health status of the U.S. population remains one of the lowest among countries with highly developed economies. To address this disparity between health care costs and health outcomes, the United States must transition from a system concentrating on sickness and disease to one in which population health and wellness along with injury and chronic illness prevention are emphasized. To promote population health among workers, their families and communities, AAOHN advocates for legislative and regulatory efforts which: 

  • Assure quality health care is accessible and affordable for all citizens;
  • Provide public programs at the population level to reduce or eliminate preventable health conditions associated with obesity; physical inactivity; abuse of tobacco, alcohol or other chemicals; and violence;
  • Promote the use of Telemedicine to increase access to quality health care for vulnerable populations and in geographic areas with low resources;
  • Encourage increased use of electronic medical records that contain occupational data including current job, previous work history, environmental exposures and work related injuries and illnesses; and
  • Promote health literacy and patient-centered care at the population level.

SUPPORT PROFESSIONAL NURSING PRACTICE 
AAOHN supports occupational and environmental health nursing practice through advocacy efforts that emphasize the value OHNs bring to employers, workers, the government, and other stakeholders. AAOHN continuously strives to elevate the profession; build visibility for OHNs; and demonstrate ways OHNs promote, protect, and restore worker health within the context of a safe and healthy work environment. To support professional nursing practice, AAOHN: 
 

  • Partners with other professional nursing and occupational health, environmental, and safety organizations to achieve common goals;
  • Endorses regulations that allow all nurses to practice to the full extent of their education and skills, including nurse practitioners;
  • Encourages all OHNs to advance their practice by obtaining continuing education credits, academic degrees, and/or specialty practice certification;
  • Improves the quality of occupational health nursing services by creating evidence-based best practices through applied research and evaluation of successful work-site interventions; and
  • Provides learning opportunities where OHNs obtain the technical business skills needed to sustain and grow occupational health services in today’s economic environment. 


As the largest group of health care professionals focused on workers and the workplace, occupational and environmental health nurses play a vital role in promoting wellness and protecting the health and safety of workers, their families and communities. AAOHN and association members are actively engaged at the local, state, national and international levels to support legislative, regulatory, and public policy efforts that positively impact occupational and environmental health. Through strong partnerships with other professional associations and governmental agencies, AAOHN and its members advocate to improve worker health and safety, protect public and environmental health, promote population health and support professional nursing practice