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Australia's emerging occupational health epidemic: silicosis

Speciality Classification
General Practice ( GP ) / Family Medicine
1 hr

Silicosis, or fibrosis of the lungs due to inhalation of crystalline silica, has started to appear in an increasingly large number of people – mostly young men, who have worked in roles where they are cutting, polishing and grinding artificial stone kitchen and bathroom benchtops.

This eLearning activity has therefore been designed to increase awareness of the causes of silicosis and help general practitioners (GPs) identify those at risk of this workplace exposure related disease. It also looks at the role of the GP in screening and referral, as well as providing medical management and psychosocial support to affected patients and their families.

Relevance to General Practice

In a recent health surveillance program in two Queensland stone masonry businesses, 34% (12 out of 35) of the workers assessed had accelerated silicosis. Many more cases are expected to be detected soon and as a result GPs need to be aware of this emerging occupational health problem as well as the appropriate screening and referral processes.
There is also no specific curative treatment for silicosis, so GPs need to be aware of how to manage this disease in their patients. This might include smoking cessation, flu vaccines and bronchodilators for symptomatic patients . Patients diagnosed with silicosis have also been found to experience significant anxiety and depression related to dealing with the morbidity and mortality of the disease and the financial impact of their inability to work or changes to their income. Management of these symptoms with psychosocial support and counselling for patients with silicosis and their families is therefore also an important part of the GP's role.

Learning outcomes
  • Outline the causes and types of silicosis and identify the presenting symptoms.
  • Describe the role of the GP in identifying potential cases, referring for assessment and ongoing management of silicosis, including providing psychosocial support to patients and their families.
  • Detect risk factors for silicosis when taking an occupational history and examination, including the risk of a false negative assessment of silicosis.
  • Domains of General Practice

    D1. Communication skills and the patient-doctor relationship

    • Communication is clear, respectful, empathic and appropriate to the person and their sociocultural context

    D2. Applied professional knowledge and skills

    • A comprehensive, clearly documented biopsychosocial history is taken from the patient

    D3. Population health and the context of general practice

    • The patterns and prevalence of disease are incorporated into screening and management practices

    D4. Professional and ethical role

    D5. Organisational and legal dimensions

    Curriculum Contextual Units
    • Adult health
    • Occupational medicine
    Australia's emerging occupational health epidemic: silicosis
    Provider Type
    Education Provider
    1 hr
    Start Date
    End Date
    CPD Points
    2 cpd