Objectives: The increasing prevalence of latex allergy among healthcare workers is a large socio-economical problem for the society and affected individuals. The objective of this study was to describe and evaluate a nationwide, interdisciplinary campaign by the institution for the German workers' compensation scheme for non-public healthcare providers that targeted the reduction of exposure to powdered high-protein latex gloves.
Methods: The effectiveness of the prevention programme is described and evaluated with a before-and-after design comparing data on compensation claims for latex-related skin and airway diseases of the German statutory compensation scheme for work-related diseases in non-public health services. A survey on change in glove use was conducted after the programme.
Results: The main feature of the campaign among healthcare workers (budget 340,000 Euro ) was to increase awareness by means of educational components on the aetiology of latex hypersensitivity for healthcare workers and their providers, and professional trainers. The number of reported compensation claims for latex-induced skin diseases increased from a pre-measure of 664 in 1996 to 884 during the programme in 1998 and decreased after the programme (post-measure n = 567 in 1999 and n = 204 in 2002). Doctors' assistants in practices and nurses/nurse assistants/midwives filed most claims. Similar decreases were observed for confirmed claims and latex-related respiratory diseases, while two other prevalent occupational diseases in healthcare workers (low-back disorders, infections) increased during this time period. The survey demonstrated a considerable concurrent drop in the use of powdered latex gloves (hospitals 76% vs 37% for unsterile gloves and 86% vs 62% for sterile gloves).
Conclusions: The campaign against latex allergy in connection with concurrent corresponding recommendations, activities of State authorities for worker protection, and regulations, is an example for the successful incorporation of research results into preventive measures that directly affect the frequency of a work-related disease. This effective programme can be regarded as a model for the reduction of other occupational diseases such as bakers' or isocyanate asthma.