Occupational Therapists Present at CDC Health and Wellness Summit
Florence Clark, PhD, OTR, FAOTA
Occupational therapists not only want to contribute to national wellness—they are vital to its success on a national level.
As part of our Centennial Vision, AOTA notified members that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would be holding a National Prevention and Health Promotion Summit in November 2007 in conjunction with the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. AOTA encouraged all of us to submit papers for presentation and attend the event..
As Vice President of AOTA, I was pleased to participate in the Summit along with 10 occupational therapists: Mary Donahue, PhD, OTR; Marilyn B. Cole, MS, OTR/L; Katie Salles-Jordan, OTD, OTR/L; Diana Baldwin, MA, OTR/L; Shirley Blanchard, PhD, OTR/L; Teresa Brady, PhD, OT; Joanne Flanagan, MS, OTR/L; Patricia Coker, MHS, OTR/L; Janet Valluzzi, MBA, OTR/L; and Liane Hewitt, DrPH.
Nine individuals from our group had the opportunity to give presentations on their innovative work to further the Centennial Vision focus on health and wellness.
- Dr. Donahue and Ms. Cole presented a poster on how a culture of wellness can be established through social participation.
- Ms. Salles-Jordan discussed an innovative Lifestyle Redesign® weight-loss program that emphasizes the relationship of eating to doing, and how knowledge of this, in combination with healthy habits, contributes to weight loss.
- Ms. Baldwin presented a study of the effectiveness of occupational therapy intervention to improve employment outcomes in the workplace for people with rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, with a focus on ergonomic issues and prevention.
- Dr. Blanchard presented her research findings which suggest that obesity often coexists with depression among African American women. The results of her study further suggest the need for culturally relevant, meaningful, and accessible health education programs for African-American women.
- Dr. Brady discussed a pilot study among the Latino population that suggests health communication campaigns based on specific audience research can influence knowledge and motivate behavior change.
- Ms. Flanagan showcased findings that support the need for earlier multidisciplinary interventions to minimize disabilities in children at high risk for autism, and ultimately to promote healthier outcomes and healthier children.
- Ms. Coker presented the description and results of creative programs that encourage healthy recreational behaviors specifically in children with disabilities.
- Ms. Valluzzi presented a poster that summarized the recently released Institute of Medicine (IOM) Report entitled The Future of Disability in America. The IOM report synthesizes the state of disability in America and sets forth national recommendations for addressing disability related research, programs, and policy. Ms. Valluzzi is a member of the Disability and Health Team of the CDC’s National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD), which was a major sponsor of the IOM report.
In addition, I was proud to describe and present the findings of the USC Well Elderly studies. As many of you know, in the first Well Elderly Study we demonstrated that Lifestyle Redesign® by an occupational therapist slowed down the declines associated with aging and improved the health of elders cost-effectively. Although we have not yet analyzed the results of our second randomized trial (USC Well Elderly Study II), I did have the opportunity to describe the study design, the way in which we provided the Lifestyle Redesign® intervention to almost 500 elders as part of the study, and how we anticipate the upcoming data analyses will fortify activity-based evidence-based practice.
It was terrific to see the ways that occupational therapists can impact and contribute to national health and wellness. What I took away was this belief: Occupational therapists not only want to contribute to national wellness—they are vital to its success on a national level.
My belief was reinforced by the keynote address of Leland R. Kaiser, PhD, futurist, author and Associate Professor in the graduate program in Health Administration at the University of Colorado, Denver. Dr. Kaiser, who was seemingly unaware of what occupational therapists do, recommended that a new holistic profession be created to address person-context fit so we can build a society that enables health.
He proposed the name “Habitat Redesigners” for this new field and envisioned such individuals going way beyond the medical model, designing healthier lifestyles and healthier habitats so people can flourish. He said that expertise in this field would depend on knowledge about person-environment transactions and would entail drawing on both science and art to be successful. If environments (habitats) were designed properly to encourage health, he maintained, health for individuals situated in them would automatically follow.
Optimizing the person-environment fit is the ideal of this new breed of professional in his view; redesigning habitats involves creative imagination on the part of the practitioner, enabling people to compensate for what they lack and capitalize on their strengths, thus modifying total life contexts. Professor Kaiser claimed that sick environments cause sickness; redesigning contexts and life situations could prevent many chronic illnesses and disabilities. If you chose the habitat and make person-environment transactions more fruitful, he said, you can “turn off” disease.
Professor Kaiser emphasized the need for health professionals to get out and observe the environments of their clients. He used the example of a older woman who had broken her hip in an accident that might have been prevented a visit to the home, which would have revealed throw rugs scattered about, doors too narrow for walkers, a porch without roof and rails that allowed ice and snow to accumulate.
His story brought to mind some of the methods and findings of the USC Well Elderly Study. Professor Kaiser suggested that we should ask the following questions in assessing habitats: Is this a caring, loving, curious and accessible environment? Is it joyful? Does it promote growth and nurture the soul? Does it enable people to blossom? Finally, he stressed that high-intensity, therapeutic habitats are needed to reverse unhealthy problems of living.
As you can imagine, the occupational therapists in the room with me all agreed that the kind of practitioner Professor Kaiser described already exists. It’s us!
Presenters mentioned in this story:
Diana Baldwin, MA
University of Missouri-Columbia Missouri Arthritis Rehabilitation Research & Training Center
Shirley Blanchard, PhD, OTR/L
Teresa Brady, PhD, OT
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Patricia Coker, MHS, OTR/L
Marilyn B. Cole, MS, OTR/L
Mary Donahue, PhD, OTR
Occupational Therapy in Mental Health, NYSOTA
Joanne Flanagan, MS, OTR/L
Kennedy Krieger Institute
Liane Hewitt, DrPH
Loma Linda University
Katie Salles-Jordan, OTD, OTR/L
University of Southern California
Janet Valluzzi, MBA, OTR/L
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities