Note: In 2011, AOTA identified this and many other topics as emerging niches in occupational therapy. Today, many of these topics have become mainstream. Learn more about the 2011 Emerging Niche series here.
Why emerging? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act1 requires many insurers to cover preventative services and tasked the president to establish an advisory group on prevention, health promotion, and integrative and public health. The federal government has been pouring money into prevention services such as community prevention and prevention research through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, health care reform, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Get Involved! Marjorie Scaffa, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, was working in home health 20 years ago and realized that many of the health problems in her clients could have been prevented. Scaffa decided to pursue a PhD in community health and health education to discover opportunities for occupational therapy practitioners in community health and health promotion. The profession can address not only health prevention needs of individuals but also for entire communities and populations by assisting public health providers in community health programs.
Scaffa suggests that practitioners interested in working with prevention pursue continuing education related to public health, health promotion, and prevention to understand the terminology, theories, and methods of prevention service providers. Practitioners should also find a mentor working in the area; network in the community to identify and integrate with the key informants, policy makers, and agencies that provide the services; and read prevention and health promotion literature to remain current, such as Healthy People 2020.
"Get involved in your community," says Scaffa. "More and more emphasis is being placed on health care cost containment, and as a result more funds will be directed toward prevention and health promotion."
- AOTA Official Documents:
- Position Paper: Occupational Therapy's Perspective on the Use of Environments and Contexts To Support Health and Participation in Occupations
- AOTA Fact Sheet: Occupational Therapy's Role in Health Promotion, by Jyothi Gupta, PhD, OTR/L, OT(C), Barbara E. Chandler, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA, and Pam Toto, MS, OTR/L, BCG, FAOTA
- OT Practice Articles: Practice Perks: Guidelines on Working With Older Adults on Health Promotion by Robyn Little and Pei-Fen Chang, PhD, OTR/L, in May 21, 2012, OT Practice.
1. Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Pub. L. 111-148.
Emerging Niche in All Practice Areas