What Occupational Health Professionals can Learn from India

Learn from India's COVID-19 experience to protect your workplace. Population density affects virus spread, and early interventions matter. India initially succeeded but eased restrictions too soon, leading to a resurgence. The U.S. response was less effective early on, but consistent restrictions and vaccination efforts improved the situation. Key takeaway for occupational health professionals: Stay vigilant, maintain social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitization practices to ensure a healthy workforce. The battle against COVID-19 isn't over, so implement effective workplace policies to keep your workforce safe and productive. Contact us to learn more.
occupational health professionals

COVID-19 infection rates in the US are significantly down, but there are a few states that are having a resurgence in infection and that are re-implementing COVID-related restrictions.  With vaccination rates increasing, what makes the difference between states that are succeeding in stemming the tide of infections and those that are reverting back to business closures and related challenges? Here’s what occupational health professionals can learn from India.

Occupational Health Professionals are More Than Just Injury Care.

At Work Health Solutions, we believe that occupational health requires more than just treating injuries.  With our Healthy Worker PyramidSM , we look at the full scope of challenges impacting your workplace, including challenges coming from outside your premises.  We even look at global and regional issues that may impact your workplace.  So what can we learn from India?

A Comparison of COVID Experience in India and the US.

India is roughly 1/3 the size of the US but has a population of roughly 1 billion people larger than the US.  The US has roughly 330M people, to India’s 1.32B.  In other words, the population density of India is significantly higher.  There are more people packed more closely together.  Increases in population density make it easier for COVID to spread.

If you review COVID infection rates in the US and India, both countries experienced sharp spikes in 2020, leading to significant rates of infection and death.  Both countries responded with restrictions—business closures, travel restrictions, mask requirements, and related rules.  Both countries experienced reductions in infection rates and death as a direct result of those rules.  What happened, and when?

Early Indian Interventions Were Effective.

In India, infection rates peaked at roughly 100,000 new cases per week in September, overwhelming their occupational health professionals.  After that, their restrictions were effective in stemming the flow of infections.  India’s early response to COVID-19 was even more effective than the US response.  However, with the significant reductions in infections, India rolled back many of its restrictions towards the start of 2021.  Public adherence to COVID restrictions dropped sharply.  India does not have widespread COVID vaccination, and currently, only 3.4% of the population is fully vaccinated.

But Indian COVID Regulations Were Rolled Back too Soon.

Starting in February, Indian COVID-19 infection rates started to rise.  By March, they were on a stratospheric trajectory, and current infection rates are nearly 400,000 new cases per week.  The news is filled with stories of mass funeral pyres to handle the bodies of COVID victims.  In other words, when the COVID restrictions stopped being enforced and followed, infection and death rates skyrocketed.  While India has a broad healthcare system, it does not have the capacity to deal with current infection rates, and the death rates are soaring.

The US was not as Effective Early on.

The US was not as effective at implementing immediate, nationwide restrictions in response to COVID-19.  When India peaked at roughly 100,000 cases per week in August and then had a decline in infections, the US stayed on a low boil from the Spring of 2020 until November 2020.  In November, infection rates in the US spiked and continued on a generally upward trajectory until December 2020, when rates peaked at 250,000 infections per week.  Nationwide, the US started to be relatively effective in stemming the flow of infections.

At that point, the US had relatively consistent COVID restrictions across the country, and infection rates dropped sharply.  That timing corresponded with the start of mass-vaccination programs in the US.  At present, the US has a full vaccination rate that is fully ten times greater than India’s.  The trend of COVID-19 infections in the US is on a downward/stable trajectory.  States have started to relax COVID-related rules.

Interestingly, there are a few states in the US that are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and that are implementing more restrictive COVID-19 rules.

What can occupational health professionals learn here?

Workplaces Must Remain COVID-conscious, Even as Infection Rates Drop.

There is a strong correlation between 1) implementing and adhering to COVID-19 regulations and 2) reducing COVID-19 infection rates.  When we think COVID-19 is going away and we relax all of the restrictions, COVID-19 will have a resurgence (until we have an incredibly strong vaccination program in place).

As we think about workplace responses to COVID-19, it is critical that occupational health professionals maintain vigilance.  Keep social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitization practices in place.  They are the key to maintaining a healthy workforce while vaccination programs are ongoing.  We are seeing great success in our fight against the pandemic, but we are not yet at a stage where we can declare victory and stop fighting.

Contact us today, to find out more about effective workplace policies to address COVID-19 and to find more ways to keep your workforce safe, healthy, and productive.



Chief Solutions Officer

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Work Health Solutions is dedicated to preserving a safe work environment and improving existing programs and care for local, regional and national organizations.

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Dr. Michael Tenison

A series of notable accomplishments distinguish Dr. Michael Tenison’s career in medical operations and healthcare management:

  • Successfully led medical operations at a national healthcare provider, focusing on optimizing healthcare delivery and patient outcomes.
  • Oversaw the regional medical practices in key markets like Oregon and Northern California, ensuring consistent, quality medical care and service delivery.
  • Demonstrated exceptional leadership in building and mentoring a large medical provider team, enhancing team performance and patient care standards.
  • Implemented strategic company policies and protocols, significantly improving center efficiency, clinical quality, and patient experiences.
  • Played a pivotal role in financial planning and identifying growth opportunities for healthcare services, contributing to the organization’s overall success.
  • Served as a primary point of contact for regional employer clients and insurance companies, fostering strong relationships and effective communication.
  • Maintained high medical care and case management standards through diligent supervision, chart audits, and performance metric analysis.

Dr. Matt Feeley

Dr. Matt Feeley is a renowned figure in military aviation medicine, with a robust background in occupational and environmental medicine from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. 

  • Former Naval Flight Surgeon, exemplifying his expertise in aerospace medicine and commitment to military health.
  • Served with distinction at NSA Bahrain and HSM-37, earning the COMPACFLT Flight Surgeon of the Year award for exceptional medical service.
  • Supported U.S. Marines VMFA-323 aboard the USS Nimitz, MACG-38, and VMU-3, demonstrating versatility and leadership in diverse medical environments.
  • Broad interests and significant contributions in global health, corporate medicine, and aerospace medicine, highlighting his multidisciplinary approach.
  • Proven track record as a dynamic leader, well-equipped to face the challenges in a fractional medical directorship role with innovative solutions.

Dr. Glen Cheng

A physician-attorney with a dedication to healthcare innovation, informatics, and digital health.

  • Currently spearheads employee health protection and promotion within the VA Pittsburgh Health Care System.
  • Trained in residency at Harvard, achieving board certification as a physician; also a licensed patent attorney with experience as FDA regulatory counsel.
  • Co-founded Acceleromics, a consulting firm providing clinical and regulatory guidance to digital health startups.

Erin Davis

 Chief Clinical Officer at Work Health Solutions, certified in Adult-Gerontology (AGNP-C) and Athletic Training (ATC).

  • Oversees clinical operations and ensures high clinical standards across the company’s national field staff.
  • Former Manager of Clinic Operations and Occupational Health Nurse Practitioner at Stanford University Occupational Health Center (SUOHC).
  • Specialized in treating occupational injuries and illnesses, and provided medical surveillance and travel medicine consults at Stanford and SLAC National Accelerator Lab.
  • Dedicated to sports and occupational injury treatment and prevention.
  • Assistant Clinical Faculty at UCSF, mentoring students in clinical rotations within the Adult Gerontology and Occupational and Environmental Health Program.
  • Holds leadership roles as Treasurer and President Elect of the California El Camino Real Association of Occupational Health Nurses (CECRAOHN), affiliated with the American Association of Occupational Health Nurses (AAOHN).

Dr. Robert Goldsmith

Expert in benefits design and onsite innovation with specialization in the pharmaceutical industry.

  • Previous role as Executive Director for Employee Health at Novartis Services, Inc., leading health services and clinical support.
  • Instrumental in creating an integrated healthcare system at Novartis.
  • Former private practice in internal medicine in Stamford, Connecticut, and Medical Director consultant for GTE Corporation.
  • Transitioned to GE as a Global Medical Director in 2000.
  • Holds a medical degree from Albert Einstein College, an MPH from the University of Connecticut, and completed training at Greenwich Hospital and Yale-New Haven Medical Center.
  • Assistant professor in the Department of Medicine at the Vagelos School of Medicine, Columbia University.
  • Serves as a team physician for high school athletes in Stamford.
  • Published works on occupational health risks, primary prevention, and exercise-induced asthma.