Supporting preparedness for work life among the unemployed – focus on health care and network communities

Public examination of a doctoral dissertation in the field of Occupational Health

Doctoral candidate: MHSc Kirsi Lappalainen

Date and venue: 5.5.2017 at 12 noon, Snellmania, SN201, Kuopio Campus

Language of the dissertation and the public examination: Finnish

This study is part of the Occupational Health Counselling project carried out in Kuopio in 2008–2010, the participants of which were 16‒24 year-old young people/adults who were not covered by occupational health services (OHS), and 25‒54 year-old people participating in labour force training. The study produced information on the need for health services that promote the work ability and functional capacity of their customer base, as well as on the functionality of these service systems. The aim of the study was to evaluate the implementation of the customer process in health care for the unemployed, authorities’ collaboration networks, and the co-operation between the practices of OHS and primary health services. This study provided information on the co-operation between the practices of primary health care and OHS. The study also highlighted the special characteristics of the customer base and the areas of service that require development.

The effectiveness of measures to promote the health and work ability of the unemployed has been studied very little on both the national and international level. Moreover, few development projects on the effects of these measures have been reported. Another area that has not been studied is the role of OHS in the production of health services for the unemployed. The customer process was also described.

The study comprised four sub-studies. The first sub-study consisted of interviewing authorities’ personnel in Kuopio, the municipality under development, and in the control municipalities (Joensuu, Jyväskylä, Oulu, and Vammala). A network questionnaire was sent out at the same time. This was repeated before and after the project (second sub-study). The third sub-study examined the lifestyle and health issues of the project’s unemployed young people (aged 16‒25) according to length of unemployment. The health questionnaires were distributed to all unemployed young people in Kuopio and Iisalmi during this time period. In the fourth sub-study, we interviewed the young participants of the project and performed a customer feedback survey in the form of a postal questionnaire sent to all the project participants (aged 16‒55).

According to the results, internal collaboration within health care services should be based on client needs, i.e. supporting the preparedness for work life of the unemployed. However, tensions and differing opinions exist within health care services regarding the special needs of this group. The co-operation between health services and labour administration is not sufficiently solid to support the work ability of the unemployed. The research indicated that young men (aged 16–25) were at a higher risk of prolonged unemployment than women. The study also showed possible associations between prolonged unemployment and both drug use and a low or moderate score on the Work ability index. Of those who provided customer feedback, almost all thought that the unemployed (95 %) need health examinations, and that these should be regular (98 %).

According to the results, closer network collaboration is needed between health care and labour administration in order to promote the work ability of the unemployed. Co-operation within health care services needs to be improved, and roles made clearer. Some of the operating concepts of OHS offer a good model as regards the needs of this customer group. OHS resources should especially focus on unemployed people who report feeling that their health or work ability has diminished. Young people in particular feel that they benefit from health promotion and health appointments with a professional.

The doctoral dissertation of Kirsi Lappalainen, Master of Health Sciences, entitled Supporting preparedness for work life among the unemployed – focus on health care and network communities will be examined at the Faculty of Health Sciences. The Opponent in the public examination will be Docent Paula Naumanen of the University of Oulu, and the Custos will be Professor Kimmo Räsänen of the University of Eastern Finland.

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