Friday, November 1, 2013

Why did you attend the ACHRF event in Australia?

I spent much of October in Australia.  My main purpose was to attend the third Australasian Compensation Health Research Forum (ACHRF) in Sydney.  The forum had two full days of presentations and discussions along two themes:  Day 1-  Return to work and social participation and Day 2- Health and disability services delivery.  While there is no substitute for personal participation in the conference, the organizers have made most presentations available on line.

My keynote presentation was an introduction to the first day and to the theme of return to work and social participation.  I used an “environmental scanning” approach to highlight “Six Trends, Three Predictions and One Sure Thing: International Perspectives on Return to Work and Social Participation.” This presentation provided evidence for six trends in North America, Europe and the Australasian region and some predictions for what is coming next. 

I touched on the following trends:

1.       Rise of social enterprise 
2.       Mainstreaming Social Responsibility
3.       Enabling through Technology
4.       Improving through Comparison
5.       Dawning of BIG DATA
6.       Resetting Expectations

My three predictions that will influence RTW in the future flowed from these trends and from other developments that are hard to ignore:

1.       Demographic Change:  Unexpected Consequences
2.       Concepts of “Disability” will change….Dramatically
3.       Technology, for good and ill, will change everything

The “One Sure Thing” is that the number of disabled persons is going to increase dramatically.  Already, US Social Security Disability is nearing the point of insolvency; the number of recipients of Canada Pension Plan Disability is rising and is projected to continue to rise for at least the next two decades.  This does not even address the rising prevalence of disability in the overall population.  One New Zealand study projects the disabled population is estimated to grow over the next 50 years to 1.2 million people, or 21 per cent of the total population.

The goal of the presentation was not to solve the world’s problems or to pass judgment on the trends identified.  The goal was to invite the gathered researchers, administrators, policy makers and practitioners to lift their point of view from the narrow focus on jurisdiction and caseloads; to view the wider world of RTW and social participation in other jurisdictions; and to begin a process of discussion, research and action to improve outcomes for those that need it most.

A major advantage of participating in this event was the opportunity it afforded me to meet with reprentatives from agencies that share the mandate of WorkSafeBC.  These included WorkSafe Victoria, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC),  ACCComcare, WorkCover NSW and many researchers associated with the Institute for Safety and Compensation Recovery Research (ISCRR)— host of the event and sponsor of my participation.  Those informal discussions provide the context essential to understanding the trends and results evident in other jurisdictions. 

Even if you can’t personally attend events like this one, the program and presentations provide a portal through which you may glimpse the direction of new research and the approaches of others to issues common to all.   The world of workers’ compensation, prevention, and RTW is small and many of the challenges we face are common.  There is much to learn from each other.  Exploring the presentations from this event may open new avenues of dialogue with our Australasian cousins.   

No comments: