Elizabeth Marfeo; The Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020: How Policy Connects With Occupational Therapy Principles and Practice. Am J Occup Ther 2020;74(5):7405090010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2020.745002
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
The U.S. population is aging at an unprecedented rate, creating both opportunities and challenges for the overall health of the nation. Occupational therapy practitioners can inform important health policies by developing an understanding of the basis for relevant laws and programs and how occupational therapy principles relate to policy goals. This column discusses the Older Americans Act of 1965 (reauthorized as the Supporting Older Americans Act of 2020) and describes ways in which the objectives of this legislation align with the principles and practice of occupational therapy. Recommendations are provided for how the field of occupational therapy can enhance current policy development and debate, thus leading to expanded opportunities for the profession.
Caregivers of elderly adults;
Informational services, such as pension counseling;
Nutritional services, such as meal delivery;
Disease prevention and health promotion services;
Community and workforce training regarding elder care; and
Abuse and neglect prevention services.
Strengthen the focus of advanced training to develop a deeper understanding of upstream (or population, i.e., global, government), intermediate (i.e., environmental, behavioral), and downstream (i.e., disease, individual) factors related to older adults’ health, participation, and quality of life.
Identify emerging practice areas in which occupational therapy can improve participation, health, and quality of life through community-based interventions for older adults.
Increase awareness of a broader range of public policy that is not directly related to health but has the potential for significant health implications (i.e., public policies such as those relating to transportation, employment, and environment).
Develop fluency in policy-level language to frame both problems and solutions directed at improving practitioners’ ability to effectively communicate occupational therapy–driven initiatives to a wide range of key stakeholders.
Expand the profession’s research priorities to focus on population-level outcomes that align with health policy directions, including community-based initiatives.
Continue to capitalize on the profession’s distinct occupation-based and client-centered perspective when developing research aims and objectives.
Strategically develop multidisciplinary research teams to ensure feasibility and sustainability of occupational therapy–led interventions and strategies emerging from scholarly work.
Continue to explore systematic ways in which occupational therapy practitioners can promote better living for older adults by reducing environmental barriers (both physical and social) to promote access and accessibility, safety, and participation through community-based, implementation science research.
Explicitly identify policy targets using a sociocultural lens to promote inclusive strategies that address the needs of vulnerable marginalized client populations.
Partner with related professional organizations that represent a diverse set of stakeholders to support legislation, including amendments to OAA 2020, to further promote older adults’ dignity, health, participation, and quality of life.
Increase the recognition of occupational therapy practitioners as important agents of social and economic change by becoming more politically active and demonstrating the effectiveness of occupational therapy in promoting health, participation, and quality of life for all older adults, including those who are socially excluded.
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