I have just been to the Asia Pacific Occupational Therapy Congress held in Hong Kong where it is definitely warmer than Dunedin at this time of year. In fact I understand there was snow at my house when I was enjoying 29-32 degrees in Hong Kong. It certainly rates a blog or two so here is the first.
Part One: Finding out about therapists and therapy in the region:
I was interested to hear that China has approx 60 schools where they run programmes based on occupational therapy / physiotherapy – creating what they term rehabilitation therapists. It appears likely that in the future these will become physiotherapy and occupational therapy programmes, which it is hoped will then meet the World Federation of Occupational Therapy (WFOT) minimum standards for training for occupational therapists. So hopefully soon occupational therapy will be flourishing in China! The hard part will be getting enough educators in occupational therapy to do the training. As I understood it there are perhaps only 40 graduates of WFOT schools in China currently.
There appeared to be some interesting similarities with Canada as when it was running courses (up until the mid 80’s) where students were dual trained in both occupational therapy and physiotherapy most students came out taking jobs that were more physio based. Occupational therapy only flourished in Canada when they moved to separate schools, hopefully the same will occur in China. Going by the growth of occupational therapists in Canada there must have been a huge growth in, and an acknowledgement of the need for our skills by clients and the health care system.
Thinking about this it renewed an old ‘wondering’ for me – mind the link might only be visible to me (but maybe you can figure out the jump in logic). I started to redebate whether the same kind of issues might be true of the move to use more case managers that we seeing in New Zealand and wonder whether clients miss out if they only receive the core skills associated with this role and not receive specific occupational therapy, social work etc. I guess the question is do they know what they might be missing – if they have never seen the alternative. anyway back to the congress.
We heard most from therapists from Hong Kong I was fascinated by the amount of quantitative research being done. Here in New Zealand when research is done in occupational therapy it is more likely to be qualitative research. Asia Pacific wide the pressure for educators to produce research is inescapable, and the frustration about the poor impact score our research is given was universal (funding received for research depends on the perceived impact of the research).
There were a number of wonderful examples of therapists doing innovative therapy in some very under resourced areas, and of regions helping other regions.
There seemed to be an increasing awareness from different countries in the Asia Pacific region of the need for occupational therapy to be culturally appropriate. Which has resulted in some questioning of occupational therapy models based on Western values. It seems that whilst there is an awareness of a need to acknowledge and do something to acknowledge the different cultures, and the peoples of these cultures needs, that the direction is still not clear, although the Kawa Model is giving everyones thinking a bit of a push. This confusion/rebellion to me is all a part of the process of articulating an identity and for me is not is not unexpected as we only have to consider how long it took for the profession (which started in the West) to develop its first profession specific models. I hope that the debate continues. Perhaps it would be worth thinking/discussing the differences and similarities that exist in occupational therapy whereever they might be in the world. could always utilise appreciative inquiry (see below)