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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Presenteeism: A Public Health Hazard

  • Author(s): Widera, Eric
  • Chang, Anna
  • Chen, Helen L.
  • et al.

"Presenteeism" occurs when an employee goes to work despite a medical illness that will prevent him or her from fully functioning at work. This problem has been well studied in the business and social science literature, and carries increased importance in the health care setting due to the risk of infectious disease transmission in vulnerable patient populations. In this manuscript, we discuss an outbreak of viral gastroenteritis in a long-term care facility and the role presenteeism played in disease transmission and extension of the outbreak. We use existing literature to point out the hazards of presenteeism in the health care sector. We will also discuss factors that may be involved in the decision to work while ill and propose policy changes that may reduce the incidence of presenteeism in health care organizations.

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