Doctors, researchers and fire service experts team to create tool to promote firefighter health
Fairfax, Va. – The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) today released A Healthcare Provider’s Guide to Firefighter Physicals to assist healthcare providers in the evaluation and treatment of the health and wellness of firefighters. The guide serves as an important new tool for firefighters to manage their own healthcare.
The research-supported, experience-driven guide, available through the IAFC, features a systems approach to the physical examination of firefighters, addressing cardiovascular health and fitness, cancer, musculoskeletal injuries, behavioral health, lung disease, sleep disorders and infectious diseases.
Recent studies and surveys suggest there is a serious gap in the healthcare of firefighters:
- According to the National Fire Protection Association, sudden cardiac deaths account for a majority (51%) of on-duty firefighter deaths.”
- Research by Denise Smith, PhD, Skidmore College, found for every line-of-duty death there are an estimated 17 nonfatal cardiac events on duty among firefighters.
- An IAFC survey found that only 45% of volunteer firefighter respondents and up to 80% of career firefighter respondents receive annual firefighter physicals.
“Firefighters need healthcare that is tailored to the inherent risks of their dangerous jobs,” said Chief John Sinclair, IAFC president and chairman of the board. “The guide provides doctors and firefighters clear information about the clinical care needed to address these risks. The IAFC encourages all firefighters to be strong advocates for their own health and wellness by making sure their doctor examines them for the many health risks they face.”
This guide is an important new tool designed to explain to healthcare providers the job of firefighting, whether or not a fire department offers NFPA 1582 physicals. It addresses the physiological demands, hazards, exposures, diseases, illnesses and injuries firefighters are most prone to suffer. Through research and experience-driven clinical recommendations, it focuses a healthcare provider’s examination.
“As a former firefighter and department physician with the Boston Fire Department and now as the primary care provider for many Boston-area firefighters, I have developed a unique perspective and understanding of the many immediate and long-term serious health risks associated with firefighting,” said Dr. Michael Hamrock, St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center, a primary contributor in the development of the guide. “These guidelines will be extremely beneficial to primary-care clinicians and have a profound impact on improving the health and saving the lives of many firefighters. Primary-care providers will now be better equipped to more effectively screen and
intervene early on the specific occupationally related illnesses that are disabling and killing too many of our firefighters.”
The guide is built in concert with the principles of both the Standard on Comprehensive Occupational Medical Program for Fire Departments (NFPA 1582) and the IAFC/IAFF Wellness-Fitness Initiative. It was made possible through the IAFC’s FSTAR initiative, funded by an Assistance to Firefighters Grant/Fire Prevention and Safety Grant award from FEMA.
About the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
The IAFC represents the leadership of firefighters and emergency responders worldwide. IAFC members are the world’s leading experts in firefighting, emergency medical services, terrorism response, hazardous response, natural disasters, search and rescue, and public safety legislation. Since 1873, the IAFC has provided a forum for its members to exchange ideas, develop professionally and uncover the latest products and services available to first responders. Learn more
About FSTAR Health
Research shows firefighters are at increased risk for cardiovascular events, respiratory illnesses, many cancers, musculoskeletal injuries, and behavioral health issues as a result of their job. It is our belief that very few firefighters undergo the necessary medical monitoring needed to prevent or catch these potentially devastating, life-altering illnesses or injuries. It is the focus of the Firefighter Safety Through Advanced Research (FSTAR) Health program to improve the awareness of firefighters and healthcare providers to these increased occupational risks and by doing so improve the health and wellness of our nation’s firefighters. Visit www.fstaresearch.org.