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The path to health and well-being is intricately linked to the daily occupations in which we choose to participate. The World Health Organization (WHO) deﬁnes health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or inﬁrmity” (WHO, 1948). In the International Classiﬁcation of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) model, the WHO further quantiﬁes and measures health based on the ability of a person to participate in life (WHO). Occupational therapy is a profession that focuses on enabling clients to maximize their capacity to participate in life activities that are important and meaningful to them. With escalating health care costs and changing demographics in the United States, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), has emphasized health promotion and disease prevention to improve the life expectancy, health and quality of life of all Americans (HHS, 1998). Health promotion is a prevention strategy that allows people to manage and improve their overall health status. Occupational therapy practitioners play an important role in promoting health and preventing disease and disability (AOTA, 2008). Their unique perspective helps clients adapt and organize their daily occupations or activities related to self-care, home management, community participation, education, work and/or leisure into daily routines to prevent and minimize dysfunction, promote and develop a healthy lifestyle, and facilitate adaptation and recovery from injury, disease, or developmental challenges.
Occupational Therapy and Health Promotion
Occupational therapy practitioners believe that “health is strongly inﬂuenced by [individuals] having choice and control in everyday occupations” (CAOT, 2002, p.31), and as such, occupation is a determinant of health. “Occupations are purposeful and meaningful daily activities that ﬁll a person’s time” (AOTA, 2008). These can be activities that individuals need or want to do that relate to self-care, play or leisure, their work and/or home, and community-based tasks. Through participation in their daily occupations, individuals can positively inﬂuence their health (Wilcock, 2006). Occupational therapy practitioners are trained to view a person holistically in the context of their daily lives, across the lifespan. For example, they can create health-promoting play activities for children to enhance physical well being, develop injury prevention programs for adult workers, or educate seniors on home and activity modiﬁcations to prevent falls or identify and provide adaptations to cars so that seniors can drive more safely.
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emotional. hospitals. schools. assist in establishing a daily meal intake schedule for proper nutrition. with populations and with organizations. maintain or rebuild their independence and participate in the everyday activities of life. Occupational therapy services related to health promotion are broad ranging from general prevention strategies for a healthy population such as backpack awareness day and car safety recommendation programs for adult drivers to speciﬁc health enhancing activities for individuals with chronic medical conditions. and workplaces. .Role of Occupational Therapy Behavior patterns which can be inﬂuenced by the environment. Occupational therapy practitioners understand the complex and dynamic interactions between the person. A study done in Southern California on older residents of low income housing found that occupational therapy was more eﬀective in maintaining and promoting a healthy and more independent lifestyle than control groups that received either no services or social activity services only (Clark et al. 2002). continuing care retirement centers. Williams-Russo. Occupational therapy practitioners can identify and address barriers between the client’s abilities and the demands of their daily lives at home and at work. For example. and access to health care are the leading cause for poor health. illness or disability. and early death (McGinnis. thereby promoting a healthier lifestyle. and by oﬀering solutions to challenges associated with changing habits and routines. a person who enjoyed gardening but gave up this meaningful activity due to back pain may experience improved well being if they can continue through adaptations such as raised gardens or long handled tools to minimize strain on the back. Occupational therapy enables people of all ages live life to its fullest by helping them to promote health. For example. and social make-up—occupational therapy assists people to achieve their goals. disease.. They work with individuals and groups who have disabilities as well as healthy individuals. Who Can Beneﬁt From Occupational Therapy to Promote Health? Occupational therapy practitioners work with individuals across the life span. and prevent—or live better with—injury. by minimizing environmental barriers. This enables the occupational therapy practitioner to facilitate success by matching the person’s skills to the demands of the activity. by utilizing environmental supports. make lifestyle or environmental changes. an occupational therapy practitioner working with a client with diabetes may teach techniques to monitor skin integrity and avoid skin breakdown. & Knickman. community organizations. but not limited to. function at the highest possible level. 1997). their environment and activities they need to accomplish in their daily lives. skilled nursing facilities. and assist the client in locating an accessible community exercise program. genetic disposition. Teaching someone to change positions frequently and to limit their time per day in the garden might be an alternate approach to improved health. physical. disability. education. Health promotion services occur in various settings including. poverty. By looking at the whole picture—a client’s psychological. They also recognize the importance of habits and routines that promote the adoption and maintenance of healthy behaviors.
illness or disability. physical. and social make-up—occupational therapy assists people to achieve their goals. and cognitive/memory screens in older adults • Evaluate children for gross and ﬁne motor deﬁcits. care giving. parenting. teach relaxation techniques • Provide skills training in areas such as socialization. maintain or rebuild their independence and participate in the everyday activities of life. Occupational therapy enables people of all ages live life to its fullest by helping them to promote health. function at the highest possible level. safety in independent living. By looking at the whole picture—a client’s psychological. make lifestyle or environmental changes. etc. emotional. and prevent—or live better with—injury. .How do Occupational Therapy Practitioners Promote Health and Well-Being? Occupational therapy practitioners: • Perform assessments for health risks related to potential for falls. stress management. sensory processing or adaptive behavior diﬀerences which may result in developmental delays • Teach strategies to incorporate healthy habits and routines into daily activities for clients of all ages and abilities • Identify solutions to personal and environmental barriers limiting clients from engaging in healthy activities • Educate about the importance of relaxation and rest to achieve balance between work and leisure. time management.
Carlson.. (1997). improve their performance of daily activities and adopt healthy habits and routines. R. & Knickman. Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (2002). mothers in homeless shelters. OT(C).gov/ Wilcock. OTR/L. maintain or rebuild their independence and participate in the everyday activities of life.. FAOTA. 21. . PhD. By helping clients eliminate barriers.int/hist/oﬃcial_records/2e.S. and social make-up—occupational therapy assists people to achieve their goals. Azen. Pam OTR/L. An occupational perspective of health (2nd ed. J. 625-683. make lifestyle or environmental changes.pdf for by Jyothi * This fact sheet was developed andAOTA Toto. physical. J.. Mandel. R. Barbara E. 2008. et al. NJ: SLACK incorporated. Enabling occupation: an occupational therapy perspective. U. PhD. occupational therapy unlocks the door to participation across the lifespan. function at the highest possible level. Journal of the American Medical Association. A. P. enhance their self-management skills. Williams-Russo. FAOTA. Jackson.healthypeople. (2002). (1948). 2010 from http://whqlibdoc. illness or disability. F. Preamble to the constitution of the World Health Organization. 62(6). Chandler.. American Journal of Occupational Therapy.. Ottawa: ON Clark. The case for more active policy attention to health promotion. 1321-1326. By looking at the whole picture—a client’s psychological.). Occupational therapy practice framework: Domain and Process. or those recovering from drug dependency • Backpack safety to prevent injury from heavily loaded backpacks in school-age children • Self-management programs to enable those with chronic diseases like diabetes.who. Zemke. McGinnis. Department of Health and Human Services (1998). 78-03. J. 2nd Ed. World Health Organization. Oﬃcial Records of the World Health Organization. and prevent—or live better with—injury. S. • Parenting classes for teenage mothers. emotional. 278. Healthy People 2010.Some examples of occupation-based health promotion programs: • Community-based fall prevention programs for seniors • Workplace injury prevention and wellness programs • Ergonomic principles applied to computer workstations in schools and workplaces to decrease repetitive motion and musculoskeletal disorders • Stress and anger management programs for children in juvenile detention programs. Retrieved November 17.. OTR/L. M. Occupational Therapy for independent living older adults: A randomized controlled trial. Author. Gupta.A. Thorofare. References and Resources American Occupational Therapy Association (2008). BCG. M. MS. Health Aﬀairs.. rheumatoid arthritis and cardiac conditions to optimize health through appropriate routines (modiﬁcations when necessary) and participation in meaningful occupations • CarFit programs for drivers to match the needs of the driver with minor adaptations to the car • Caregiver education to prevent injury and/or burnout Occupational therapy promotes health and wellbeing through active involvement in meaningful occupations.. Retrieved February 17. (2006). Occupational therapy enables people of all ages live life to its fullest by helping them to promote health. P. from http://www. D.