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Build an evidence-based foundation for action

The nation’s research agenda does not include examining the benefits of working or the best ways to ensure that adults who develop health problems can remain employed. Meanwhile, a great deal of research has been devoted to the adverse impact of various aspects of work on health. As a result, the evidence base is unbalanced. To understand the positive connection between health and work more fully, we need evidence on topics such as:

• The consequences of worklessness on the well-being of Americans, including its impact on morbidity, mortality, and mental health, and on family, social, and economic well-being

• The extent to which functional impairment, limitations on activity, and inability to work because of a health condition (i.e. work disability) can be remediated, mitigated, or accommodated

• The relationship between work disability and health care costs as well as the impact of restoring function on future costs

To build an evidence base for action, the federal government should fund and widely disseminate a series of comprehensive reviews of the literature on the issues that are central to keeping workers employed following a health challenge. The reviews will tell us what is known about these issues, what the findings may imply, and what knowledge gaps need to be filled. Depending on the topic, the literature available for review may include peer-reviewed studies, reports written by experts on disability and employment, and grey literature. The reviews should be easy to read for experts and non-experts alike.

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Idea No. 5