Background Occupational health surveillance is an important issue in many countries since working conditions and occupational exposures are rapidly changing. We aim to create a network of occupational disease consultation centres of Italian university hospitals to which patients are referred for potentially work-related diseases.
Methods The pilot network, namely MAREL (MAlattie e Rischi Emergenti sul Lavoro), will include five occupational disease consultation centres of university hospitals located in central-northern Italy. Patients are referred to these consultation centres by their general practitioners, occupational physicians or other specialists for the investigation of the putative occupational origin of the disease. Each centre will collect cases of putative occupational origin through a structured and standardised data collection form. An online database platform will be developed collecting data on: diagnosis; personal habits; occupational history; exposure assessment for potentially associated risk factors; physician’s opinion on the possible causal relationship between disease and occupation. The data will be coded according to national and international classifications. To detect emerging disease-exposure associations we intend to apply the proportional reporting ratio used in pharmacosurveillance and adopted by the French occupational disease surveillance system (RNV3P).
Results The data collection is going to start in 2016. Preliminary data will be available in due course. The detection of new disease-exposure associations is an important public health issue, especially as large numbers of new technologies, products and duty cycles are regularly introduced.
Discussion The Italian network MAREL will contribute to already existing surveillance systems (i.e. MALPROF) by the detection of new and emerging occupational diseases and risks and will foster the development of preventive measures stimulating research related to this field.