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1.  The health and cost implications of high body mass index in Australian defence force personnel 
BMC Public Health  2012;12:451.
Background
Frequent illness and injury among workers with high body mass index (BMI) can raise the costs of employee healthcare and reduce workforce maintenance and productivity. These issues are particularly important in vocational settings such as the military, which require good physical health, regular attendance and teamwork to operate efficiently. The purpose of this study was to compare the incidence of injury and illness, absenteeism, productivity, healthcare usage and administrative outcomes among Australian Defence Force personnel with varying BMI.
Methods
Personnel were grouped into cohorts according to the following ranges for (BMI): normal (18.5 − 24.9 kg/m2; n = 197), overweight (25–29.9 kg/m2; n = 154) and obese (≥30 kg/m2) with restricted body fat (≤28% for females, ≤24% for males) (n = 148) and with no restriction on body fat (n = 180). Medical records for each individual were audited retrospectively to record the incidence of injury and illness, absenteeism, productivity, healthcare usage (i.e., consultation with medical specialists, hospital stays, medical investigations, prescriptions) and administrative outcomes (e.g., discharge from service) over one year. These data were then grouped and compared between the cohorts.
Results
The prevalence of injury and illness, cost of medical specialist consultations and cost of medical scans were all higher (p < 0.05) in both obese cohorts compared with the normal cohort. The estimated productivity losses from restricted work days were also higher (p < 0.05) in the obese cohort with no restriction on body fat compared with the normal cohort. Within the obese cohort, the prevalence of injury and illness, healthcare usage and productivity were not significantly greater in the obese cohort with no restriction on body fat compared with the cohort with restricted body fat. The number of restricted work days, the rate of re-classification of Medical Employment Classification and the rate of discharge from service were similar between all four cohorts.
Conclusions
High BMI in the military increases healthcare usage, but does not disrupt workforce maintenance. The greater prevalence of injury and illness, greater healthcare usage and lower productivity in obese Australian Defence Force personnel is not related to higher levels of body fat.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-451
PMCID: PMC3487768  PMID: 22716068
2.  Are we there yet? Australian road safety targets and road traffic crash fatalities 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:270.
Background
Road safety targets are widely used and provide a basis for evaluating progress in road safety outcomes against a quantified goal. In Australia, a reduction in fatalities from road traffic crashes (RTCs) is a public policy objective: a national target of no more than 5.6 fatalities per 100,000 population by 2010 was set in 2001. The purpose of this paper is to examine the progress Australia and its states and territories have made in reducing RTC fatalities, and to estimate when the 2010 target may be reached by the jurisdictions.
Methods
Following a descriptive analysis, univariate time-series models estimate past trends in fatality rates over recent decades. Data for differing time periods are analysed and different trend specifications estimated. Preferred models were selected on the basis of statistical criteria and the period covered by the data. The results of preferred regressions are used to determine out-of-sample forecasts of when the national target may be attained by the jurisdictions. Though there are limitations with the time series approach used, inadequate data precluded the estimation of a full causal/structural model.
Results
Statistically significant reductions in fatality rates since 1971 were found for all jurisdictions with the national rate decreasing on average, 3% per year since 1992. However the gains have varied across time and space, with percent changes in fatality rates ranging from an 8% increase in New South Wales 1972-1981 to a 46% decrease in Queensland 1982-1991. Based on an estimate of past trends, it is possible that the target set for 2010 may not be reached nationally, until 2016. Unsurprisingly, the analysis indicated a range of outcomes for the respective state/territory jurisdictions though these results should be interpreted with caution due to different assumptions and length of data.
Conclusions
Results indicate that while Australia has been successful over recent decades in reducing RTC mortality, an important gap between aspirations and achievements remains. Moreover, unless there are fairly radical ("trend-breaking") changes in the factors that affect the incidence of RTC fatalities, deaths from RTCs are likely to remain above the national target in some areas of Australia, for years to come.
doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-270
PMCID: PMC3117711  PMID: 21527042
3.  Does self-management for return to work increase the effectiveness of vocational rehabilitation for chronic compensated musculoskeletal disorders? - Protocol for a randomised controlled trial 
Background
Musculoskeletal disorders are common and costly disorders to workers compensation and motor accident insurance systems and are a leading contributor to the burden of ill-health. In Australia, vocational rehabilitation is provided to workers to assist them to stay in, or return to work. Self-management training may be an innovative addition to improve health and employment outcomes from vocational rehabilitation.
Methods/Design
The research plan contains mixed methodology consisting of a single blind randomised controlled trial, an economic evaluation and qualitative research. Participants (n = 366) are volunteers with compensated musculoskeletal disorders of 3 months to 3 years in duration who were working at the time of the injury/onset of the chronic disorder. The trial tests the effectiveness of usual vocational rehabilitation plus the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP) to which two additional and newly-developed modules have been added, against vocational rehabilitation alone (control) The modules added to the CDSMP focus on how to navigate through compensation systems and manage the return to work process, and aim to be relevant to those in a vocational rehabilitation setting.
The primary outcome of this study is readiness for return to work which will be evaluated using the Readiness for Return-to-Work scale. Secondary outcomes include return to work status, health efficacy (heiQ™ questionnaire) and general health status (SF-12v2® Health Survey). Measures will be taken at baseline, immediately post-intervention and at 6- and 12- months post-intervention by an independent assessor. An economic evaluation will compare the costs and outcomes between the intervention and control groups in terms of cost-effectiveness and a partial cost-benefit or cost analysis. The impact of the intervention will also be evaluated qualitatively, in terms of its acceptability to stakeholders.
Discussion
This article describes the protocol for a single blind randomised controlled trial with a one year follow-up. The results will provide evidence for the addition or not of self-management training within vocational rehabilitation for chronic compensated musculoskeletal disorders.
Trial Registration
Australia and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12609000843257
doi:10.1186/1471-2474-11-115
PMCID: PMC2893451  PMID: 20534168

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