Poster Session
Issue Date: August 2016
Published Online: August 01, 2016
Updated: January 01, 2021
Critical Perspectives on Occupational Therapy Practice in Resource-Scarce African Contexts
Author Affiliations
  • Duquesne University
  • Duquesne University
  • Duquesne University
  • Duquesne University
Article Information
Advocacy / Centennial Vision / Education of OTs and OTAs / Professional Issues / Rehabilitation, Participation, and Disability / Basic Research
Poster Session   |   August 01, 2016
Critical Perspectives on Occupational Therapy Practice in Resource-Scarce African Contexts
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505101.
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, August 2016, Vol. 70, 7011505101.

Date Presented 4/7/2016

This study addresses the Centennial Vision of global connectedness. Challenges of providing services as well as contextual factors affecting the occupational therapy (OT) profession in African countries and successful innovative practice strategies are identified to add critical new perspectives on OT practice.

Primary Author and Speaker: Anne Marie Witchger

Additional Authors and Speakers: Jaime Muñoz, Chase Ratliff, Molly Edwards

Contributing Author: Francis Ekwan

PURPOSE: The purpose of this study is to uncover African occupational therapists’ perspectives on primary challenges and barriers to providing occupational therapy (OT) services, contextual factors that impact OT practice, and how they overcome these barriers in resource-scarce countries.
RATIONALE: The World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) have made a commitment to promote a globally connected profession that responds to the needs of diverse societies. Many occupational therapists seek to travel globally to connect with occupational therapists in other countries. Yet, few studies enlighten us to the challenges and successes of OT practice in resource-scarce contexts.
DESIGN: This qualitative research design combines survey research methodology with qualitative focus group strategies as the best approach for eliciting and analyzing African occupational therapists’ perspectives about their practice.
PARTICIPANTS: Several snowball recruitment strategies will generate a representative sample of occupational therapists practicing in various countries of Africa. Investigators created lists from their extensive personal relationships with African occupational therapists in collaboration with the Occupational Therapy African Regional Group, which provided contact information of members. As of this submission, more than 60 surveys have been completed by African occupational therapists in Tanzania, Kenya, and Uganda.
METHOD: Surveys create some efficiency and allow for a standardized approach to collecting broad information from a geographically scattered group of OT practitioners operating in widely diverse settings. Focus groups allow a researcher to orchestrate interactions between practitioners to generate rich and detailed data.
ANALYSIS: Qualitative data analysis begins with line-by-line microanalysis of data. Constant comparative analysis and hermeneutic, iterative analysis processes allow central ideas to be refined as concepts and the properties and dimensions of these concepts identified in such a way that categories of concepts are delineated and the range of properties of any given category are specified and grouped together.
RESULTS: Initial findings reveal that contextual factors affect OT practice, such as weak government infrastructure, high incidence of poverty and unemployment, poor educational opportunities, rugged physical environment, and effects of climate change on food production. Professional challenges practitioners face include a lack of awareness of OT’s role among other health professionals, few job opportunities, and limited educational opportunities for advancing OT skills and knowledge. Triumphs in practice include dedicated national OT leaders who champion advocacy campaigns for and with persons with disabilities, developing skills for evidence-based OT practice, and growing respect for OT by other health professionals.
DISCUSSION: The findings of this study reveal that despite challenging contextual factors, cultural beliefs, and stigma around persons with disabilities and lack of educational opportunities, occupational therapists persevere and find creative ways to carry out OT practice.
IMPACT STATEMENT: This proposal informs our limited Western view of OT with a fresh perspective from African occupational therapists, encouraging a rethinking of how to engage in sustainable global partnerships with African colleagues, allowing the leadership and volition for partnership activities to come from African therapists.