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.

ObesityWhy emerging? During the past 20 years, America has seen a dramatic increase in obesity—one of every five residents is obese in most states.1 Because obesity leads to many health problems, such as diabetes and high blood pressure, a main initiative of Healthy People 2020 is nutrition and weight status.2

Get Involved! Simone Gill, PhD, OTR/L, became interested in occupational therapy's role with obesity 10 years ago when working with a 4-year-old child whose 120-pound weight hindered her from participating in childhood occupations. Gill began conducting research on how obesity affects occupational performance, with the goal of finding suggestions for occupational therapy intervention.

"Recent trends in the area of obesity have focused on embedding increased activity into clients' everyday lives, such as community activity programs," says Gill. Practitioners interested in working in this area should gather information about the role of rehabilitation in addressing obesity and focus on increasing awareness of how occupational therapy can address obesity from an occupation-based and client-centered perspective. 

Picture by Healthy Eating, Active Community (HEAC) 


1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011, March 3). U.S.obesity trends: Trends by state 1985–2009. Retrieved March 17, 2011, from 
2. U.S Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). Healthy People 2020: Nutrition and weight status. Retrieved March 17, 2011, from