Lorie Gage Richards, Catherine Vallée; Not Just Mortality and Morbidity but Also Function: Opportunities and Challenges for Occupational Therapy in the World Health Organization’s Rehabilitation 2030 Initiative. Am J Occup Ther 2020;74(2):7402070010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.742005
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
The World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) new focus on rehabilitation offers great opportunities for occupational therapy. Recognizing that the problems in daily function created by the aging of the world’s population and the increasing prevalence of chronic health conditions require rehabilitation to be a vital part of health systems, the World Health Organization brought a variety of stakeholders together in 2017 and 2019 to help them develop the Rehabilitation 2030 initiative. Occupational therapy was represented by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists, the American Journal of Occupational Therapy, the Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy, editorial board members of several occupational therapy journals, and other occupational therapy researchers. A major challenge to meeting the goal of sufficient rehabilitation services to meet global need is the worldwide shortage of occupational therapists. This shortage can be attributed to a paucity of knowledge about occupational therapy as a health care profession, lack of understanding of the occupational therapy scope of practice, the cost of education required to become an occupational therapist, and the need for occupational therapy salaries to offset educational costs. Nonetheless, ongoing success in research and clinical outcomes will increase knowledge of the value of occupational therapy and increase the size of the profession. WHO’s focus on function is to be lauded. Yet, occupational therapists must not be content with an emphasis on function. They also need to advocate for contextual changes that eliminate barriers to participation and engagement experienced by people with disability.
Rehabilitation addresses the impact of a health condition on the person’s life by focusing primarily on improving their functioning and reducing the experience of disability. Rehabilitation focuses on the functioning of an individual and not the disease. It does this through a strong emphasis on educating and empowering people to manage their health conditions, adapt to their situation and remain as independent and active as possible. (WHO, 2019, p. 2)
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