More evidence in favour of return to work and disability management

Published: April 10, 2008

A new review has confirmed that disability management and return-towork programs are effective, replicating findings from two other systematic reviews from the Institute for Work & Health (IWH). These programs reduce or control the severity of injury in injured workers or reduce workers’ compensation claims, says Dr. Shelley Brewer, who led the systematic review along with a team at IWH. Brewer is a Chemical Loss Control Specialist with ChemPlan Inc., who conducted the review while at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston.

The review looked at the effectiveness of injury/illness prevention and loss control programs (IPCs). IPCs include three Ps – work practices among employees, policies developed by employers and programs required by regulation. In the category of RTW/disability management, reviewers found eight studies of sufficient scientific quality. All showed positive effects compared with a control or comparison group.

The studies looked at different types of approaches. Among these were a graded activity program, rehabilitation programs, disability case management programs and return-to-work policies. We recommend the development of multi-component disability management programs, using an approach that involves the health-care provider, company supervisors and employees, and workers’ compensation carriers, says Brewer.

Previous IWH reviews on workplace-based RTW programs, and on the economic evaluation of disability management interventions also showed they were effective. All three reviews are available on the Institute’s website: