A new online platform has been created to connect and empower global citizens to engage in meaningful occupations. Anna Braunizer and Esther Dark are two of the OTs behind this resource, and here they explore population-based practice using online enabling strategies.
(Article first appeared in the May/Jun issue of The OT Magazine)
Human beings are fundamentally occupational beings; that is, through the medium of occupation, one develops health and wellbeing. With the COVID-19 restrictions in place, we are all experiencing occupational deprivation, where a person or group of people are barred from what is necessary or meaningful in their lives due to external restrictions. Furthermore, the opportunity to perform occupations with social, cultural and personal relevance is rendered difficult, if not impossible. Not only this, but we are also experiencing occupational imbalance, which occurs when a person is unoccupied, under-occupied or over-occupied. Many of us are experiencing feelings of depression and anxiety as we lose connections with our meaningful occupations, particularly our social occupations.
Occupational apartheid, as stated in Kronenberg, Simo, Algado, & Pollard, 2005, in Precin et al., 2018, is the “systematic marginalisation of specific groups in society in ways that deny or restrict access and/or ability to engage in meaningful and purposeful occupations of daily living”. During COVID-19, occupational apartheid continues to exist: the lives of marginalised communities within the global population continue to be disproportionately impacted by policies developed in response to the pandemic. From an occupational justice perspective, occupational therapists have a lot to offer in the current climate. We can support and empower individuals with participation in daily life, address inequities and promote opportunities and choice.
Population-based occupational therapy practice addresses occupational injustices affecting public health and wellbeing to minimise inequities in participation and wellbeing at the population-level. As an emerging practice area, AOTA’s Centennial vision and vision for 2025 identified the potential for occupational therapists to act on a global scale and address societal occupational needs. With COVID-19, this global interconnectedness is developing rapidly through online spaces, communities, and forums. The potential for occupational therapists to play a role in contributing to the reduction of occupational apartheid, promote occupational balance, and enable community wellbeing during and beyond COVID-19 is apparent. In their community-centred practice framework, Hyett and colleagues identified ‘Facilitating Online participation via Social Media’ as one of the key participation enablement strategies. In a world where we are all physically distancing, we need to use the means available to us and get creative. It makes sense to use online platforms for virtual service delivery.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and as a way to enact population-based occupational therapy, with the population being those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Anna Braunizer, a Canadian-based occupational therapist, gathered up a team of OTs and other AHPs across the globe, including myself, to launch an occupation-based online platform: www.beyondcovid-19.com and @beyondCOVID (Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook).
Beyond COVID is an online platform that has been developed to enable and empower global citizens to engage in their meaningful occupations, routines, and roles, and move from surviving to thriving. Exploring emerging roles for occupational therapists, the website hosts:
- What Do You Need – a simple needs assessment for citizen engagement
- The Doing Library – a plethora of educational, academic, and online activity resources for promoting public health and wellbeing during COVID-19
- Daily Doing missions – behavioural activation through the @beyondCOVID social media channels. Missions are designed to target the domains of experience outlined in the Do-Live-Well framework
- The ‘Do What You Love’ blog – people from around the world can connect, share, and offer advice on adapting and re-engaging with what is meaningful to them
- The ‘For Hope’ gallery: images and words to inspire hope, resilience, and compassion
Also in development:
- A ‘For Health Professionals’ section – for the online health professional community. Here you will find resources on professional development opportunities, strategies for pivoting to telehealth, and resources for those on the front lines
- The beyond COVID podcast – to increase the accessibility of our content and reduce potential screen time
- One of our key values is community. With this in mind, we are exploring options to host co-occupations, occupations that can be performed by more than one person in a shared social, temporal, and spatial (in this case online) space, and collective occupations, community occupations with socio-political intentions.
Esther has been responsible for editing the blog contributions from authors from around the globe; sharing their tips on doing, being and stories of hope. It has been insightful, inspirational and humbling to read the narratives of so many, and just how resilient we can be in the face of such uncertainty. Whilst Anna has been directing and managing beyond COVID and supporting a team of volunteers to contribute to the website.
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