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Coal miner health: NIOSH seeks comment on barriers to free screenings

Image: NIOSH

Washington — NIOSH is asking for stakeholder input on overcoming barriers to participation in the free health screenings offered through its Coal Workers’ Health Surveillance Program, according to a notice published in the Nov. 13 Federal Register.

The agency is especially interested in feedback on the following questions:

  • Are coal miners aware that periodic health screenings are available, at no cost to them, through the program?
  • Is lack of convenience of the screenings (e.g., screening locations or hours of availability) a barrier to participation?
  • Does NIOSH’s mobile surveillance unit provide a useful supplement to services offered by approved health care facilities engaged by mine operators?
  • Do coal miners receive encouragement to participate (or discouragement from participating) in CWHSP screenings from others such as employers, unions or co-workers?
  • Are scheduling issues, such as the need to take unpaid time off from work or use vacation hours or non-work hours for health screenings, a barrier to miner participation in health screenings?
  • Does concern about the confidentiality of medical information pose a barrier to participation?
  • Does concern that the early identification of dust-related lung disease might adversely affect a miner’s career (e.g., prevent career advancement or the ability to get a new coal mining job) pose a barrier to participation?
  • Does concern that early identification of dust-related lung disease might affect subsequent eligibility for compensation through federal or state programs pose a barrier to participation?
  • Does concern that personal finances will require a miner to continue working despite early identification of dust-related lung disease pose a barrier to participation?
  • Are there additional barriers to participation that NIOSH should be aware of?

CWHSP offers free screenings that include chest X-rays and spirometry examinations. The notice states that screenings can help detect signs of coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, a deadly but preventable condition commonly known as black lung, which is at a 25-year high.

The deadline for comments is Jan. 14.

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