A population approach to occupational therapy

Ruth Watson


Structural and chronic poverty, adverse incorporation, a decline in employment opportunities and the neglect of rural development needs have combined to further destabilise the lives of people who have inhabited the margins of South African society for decades. While many adults struggle to cope with the demands of daily living, children are not thriving or coping well academically. People who receive some form of social grant are relatively better off than many of their neighbours, but in a communitarian society this regular income is shared with the whole household. A community-based rehabilitation approach with a strong occupational perspective could be used to mobilise rural residents (all ages, including disabled people, their households and neighbours) to self-help action, leading to better health, wellbeing and fruitful life course development. This would require conscientisation, effective teamwork and long term commitment from services and the community alike to an evolving process of development across many different sectors. The possibility poses an opportunity for occupational therapists that catch this vision to adopt a population approach to change, and to simultaneously promote people-centred development through occupation.  

Key words: poverty, life course development, community based rehabilitation, population occupational therapy

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ISSN 0038-2337 (print), ISSN 2310-3833 (online)

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