Dip.COT(UK), B.App.Sc(OT), MBA, FWFOT
Executive Liaison for: Asia Pacific
President’s Message – June 2020
We have been shocked and saddened over the events in the past weeks that demonstrate the systemic racism and inequities that continue to pervade our global community. There is clearly much work to be done in our pursuit of occupational justice for all.
As occupational therapists, students and assistants, we are obligated to promote the rights of all individuals to engage freely in the occupations needed and wanted to survive and contribute meaningfully to personal and community well-being1. We need individual and collective action to build access to nutrition, education, housing, economic stability and social supports necessary to foster healthy occupation. WFOT remains strongly committed to organisational efforts to promote human rights and work with our partners to eradicate abuses that undermine occupational justice2. To foster individual action on occupational justice, WFOT has developed a listing of advocacy resources on our website that includes guidance on developing an advocacy strategy, in addition to tools such as template letters, relevant WFOT position statements and a dedicated online interactive forum for discussion, debate, and feedback.
Coupled with the heightened racial tensions that have gripped our nations over the past weeks, we continue to face restrictions around the world imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. As we learn to function in our new realities brought about by the pandemic, greater understanding is emerging regarding the impact of COVID-19. Epidemiological data reveals that disadvantaged and vulnerable individuals are disproportionally at risk to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic3. Heightened economic, social and workforce disparities arising from the pandemic create higher levels of mortality and morbidity among disadvantaged populations. The effects of such disparities are compounded by pre-existing epidemics of chronic disease, also known to be linked to inequities in social determinants of health4.
New research demonstrates the value and need for occupational therapy rehabilitation for people affected by COVID-19. Rehabilitation is beneficial in the acute and long-term recovery phases from COVID-19, as well as for individuals affected by physical distancing measures stemming from the pandemic5,6,7,8. WFOT acknowledges that many people do not have access to occupational therapy and advocates for equal opportunities to rehabilitation for people affected by COVID-19 as a human right9. WFOT conducted a needs assessment that will inform our future actions on this issue. We thank the over 2500 individuals who have responded to our online COVID-19 survey for this assessment.
As part of annual World Occupational Therapy Day activities, WFOT introduced a number of resources that promote the theme of “Reimagine Doing”. In this unprecedented year of uncertainty and change, we are celebrating the expertise of occupational therapy for reimagining participation in activities that provide value and meaning to everyday life. While developed for World Occupational Therapy Day, the theme and promotional products are designed to be used anytime to promote the importance of occupation and the need to challenge usual practices to enable equitable access to occupations that support health and well-being.
In closing, I would like to encourage you to use your knowledge, skills and expertise in occupational therapy to join with WFOT to advocate for occupational justice and human rights as foundational elements needed for just and inclusive societies. As occupational beings, we all have the need and right to freely engage in necessary and chosen occupations, without risk to safety, human dignity or well-being.
- WFOT (2019). Occupational Therapy and Human Rights. Available from: https://wfot.org/resources/occupational-therapy-and-human-rights
- WFOT (2020a). WFOT Public Statement on Systemic Racism. Available from: https://wfot.org/wfot-statement-on-systemic-racism
- Bambra C, Riordan R, Ford J, Matthews, F. (2020). The COVID-19 pandemic and health inequalities J Epidemiol Community Health 0:1–5. doi:10.1136/ jech-2020-214401
- Kantamneni, N. (2020). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on marginalized populations in the United States: A research agenda. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 119. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jvb....
- Ceravolo, M. G., De Sire, A., Andrenelli, E., Negrini, F., & Negrini, S. (2020). Systematic rapid" living" review on rehabilitation needs due to covid-19: Update to March 31st 2020. European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. doi. 10.23736/S1973-9087.20.06329-7
- Li, J. (2020). Effect and Enlightenment of Rehabilitation Medicine in COVID-19 Management. European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. doi 10.23736/S1973-9087.20.06292-9
- Smith, J., Lee, A., Zeleznik, H., Coffey Scott, J., Fatima, A., Needham, D., & Ohtake, P. Home and Community-Based Physical Therapist Management of Adults With Post–Intensive Care Syndrome (2020). Physical Therapy. https://doi.org/10.1093/ptj/pzaa059
- Yu, P., Wei, Q., & He, C. (2020). Early rehabilitation for critically ill patients with COVID-2019: More benefits than risks. American Journal of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation. doi 10.1097/PHM.0000000000001445
- WFOT (2020b). WFOT Public Statement on Occupational Therapy and People Affected by COVID-19. Available from https://www.wfot.org/news/2020/wfot-public-statement-occupational-therapy-and-rehabilitation-of-people-affected-by-the-covid-19-pandemic