Research Article
Issue Date: July/August 2021
Published Online: May 27, 2021
Updated: July 09, 2021
Inside an Occupational Therapy–Disability Community Partnership to Promote Health Management: Ethnography of a Research Collaboration
Author Affiliations
  • Susan Magasi, PhD, is Associate Professor, Departments of Occupational Therapy and Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois at Chicago; smagas1@uic.edu
  • Amber M. Angell, PhD, OTR/L, is Assistant Professor, Chan Division of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Southern California, Los Angeles. At the time of the study, Angell was Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Illinois at Chicago.
  • Christina Papadimitriou, PhD, is Associate Professor, Department of Interdisciplinary Health Sciences and Department of Sociology, Oakland University, Rochester, MI.
  • Ricardo D. Ramirez, OTD, OTR/L, is Occupational Therapist, University of Illinois Hospital and Health Systems, Chicago. At the time of the study, Ramirez was Doctoral Student and Research Specialist, Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Illinois at Chicago.
  • Alli Ferlin, OTD, OTR/L, is Occupational Therapist, Vibra Rehabilitation Hospital of Denver, Denver, CO. At the time of the study, Ferlin was Doctoral Student, Department of Occupational Therapy, University of Illinois at Chicago.
  • Judy Panko Reis, MS, MA, is Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leader, Chicago. At the time of the study, Reis was Health Policy Analyst, Access Living Center for Independent Living, Chicago.
  • Tom Wilson, MS, is Community Activist, Chicago. At the time of the study, Wilson was Community Development Organizer for Health Care, Access Living Center for Independent Living, Chicago.
Article Information
Health and Wellness / Rehabilitation, Participation, and Disability / Special Issue on Occupational Therapy and Disability Studies
Research Article   |   May 27, 2021
Inside an Occupational Therapy–Disability Community Partnership to Promote Health Management: Ethnography of a Research Collaboration
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, May 2021, Vol. 75, 7504180050. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2021.045468
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, May 2021, Vol. 75, 7504180050. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2021.045468
Abstract

Importance: Disability studies–informed occupational therapy is predicated on full and equal partnerships among occupational therapy practitioners, researchers, and disability communities. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is an approach to research that aligns with this vision yet is not without challenges. Understanding the tensions that arise from stakeholders’ perspectives and priorities is critical for promoting collaboration between occupational therapy professionals and disability community partners.

Objective: To understand the group dynamics and relational processes of a CPBR team in the context of an intervention development study focused on health management for people with disabilities (PWD).

Design: This 9-mo ethnographic study included semistructured interviews and participant observation. Data were analyzed thematically.

Setting: Community-based multiagency collaborative.

Participants: Nine participants (6 academic team members, 4 of whom were trained as occupational therapists; 2 disability partners; and 1 managed-care organization representative) took part. Three participants self-identified as PWD.

Findings: CBPR processes, although productive, were fraught with challenges. Team members navigated competing priorities, varying power dynamics, and multifaceted roles and identities. Flexibility was needed to address diverse priorities, respond to unexpected challenges, and facilitate the project’s success.

Conclusions and Relevance: Deep commitment to a shared goal of health care justice for PWD and team members’ willingness to address tensions promoted successful collaboration. Intentional relationship building is needed for occupational therapy researchers to collaborate with members of disability communities as equal partners.

What This Article Adds: Disability studies–informed occupational therapy research demands that team members intentionally nurture equitable relationships through shared governance, clear communication, and recognition of the fluid nature of power dynamics.