Occupational therapy without harm: Stop the World - it’s time to get up and save it!

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Occupational therapy without harm: Stop the World - it’s time to get up and save it!

Occupational therapy without harm: Stop the World - it’s time to get up and save it!

It’s all very well being a devoted occupational therapist (OT) making other people’s lives better through participation in activity.

But if the environment isn’t right, activities are cancelled, and participation ends.

It’s a cause-and-effect witnessed and experienced in the covid pandemic; a global crisis we didn’t see coming but rapidly reacted to.

So, what about the global climate crisis we have seen coming?

 

   No region, country or community is immune to the health impacts of climate change.   

Joel Reynolds, RCOT ProfessionalAdviser.

 

It’s time for OTs to act in response to global environmental changes - an urgent appeal broadcast at the recent Royal College of Occupational Therapists’ annual conference. [1]

“Climate change threatens to disrupt our health systems and undermine the past 50 years of gains in public health,” said Joel Reynolds, RCOT Professional Adviser, referencing climate research in The Lancet. [2]

“Urgent action is required by all of us in order to adjust and take steps to reduce our carbon use.

“But we can be emboldened to do more as a profession.”

He challenged occupational therapy professionals to think about ways they could make their practice more sustainable.

“No region, country or community is immune to the health impacts of climate change,” he said.

“And that means it’s a universal responsibility of all occupational therapists, no matter where you work.”

But Joel added“Luckily, there is a lot we can do.” 

A vision of sustainable health care was held up by Sonia Roschnik, International Climate Policy Director for European sustainable healthcare non-profit, Health Care Without Harm. [3]

“What we are talking about is a real system transformation across all of healthcare,” she explained to conference delegates.

“Some of that is about models of care, utilising telehealth…we are going to need to dig deep to find solutions. 

 

   I am counting on every one of you to support [the] transition. It is urgent that we deal with this climate and this health crisis.   

 

 

Carolyne Hague, Principal Occupational Therapist with Devon County Council, pointed to links between public health, sustainable services and cost savings.

“Public health and prevention directly correlate with environmentally sustainable services,” she said.

“Reducing the impact on public health and the environment will save money and eventually help us to get to net carbon zero.

“AHPs [Allied Health Professionals] and occupational therapists work in a sustainable way within an unsustainable system.

“We really do need to promote the value of how we work.”

 

Zero excuses

Take tips from the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare to become a lean, green rehabilitation machine.

The centre is a knowledge hub supporting health services aiming for net zero carbon by 2045. [4]

And it’s taken advice from the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) and RCOT, among others, to compile a list of sustainability steps [5] specifically for OTs, such as:

 

  • Review occupations through a ‘sustainable lens’.
  • Use durable, low carbon and recycled alternatives.
  • Merge MDT visits to save multi trips and deliveries.
  • Avoid or cease wasteful activity – use text/email prompts, for example, to tackle non-attendance.
  • Reduce travel distances – for example, linking OTs with referrals close by.
  • Talk TLC to others - turn off, lights out, close doors and windows.

 

GOT to be in it!

The UK’s Green Occupational Therapy (GOT) group sprung to life in 2009, later giving rise to OT Susnet, an occupational therapy sustainable practice network that now boasts over 600 members. [6]

Susnet is inspiring international as well as UK-based sustainable initiatives.

It shares information to speed up sustainability switches and offers free online learning about topics such as:

 

  • The impact of climate change on public health.
  • Creating the most effective healthcare system.
  • The science of climate change. 
  • Solutions to climate change.
  • Ways to ensure sustainable futures.
  • Sustainable logistics and procurement practices.
  • Achieving sustainable development goals.

 

Susnet also lists TED talks on sustainability from leading global voices such as Greta Thunberg and social progress expert, Michael Green. [7]

 

Further reading

Nature-based interventions in Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Activity after brain injury

Neuro occupational therapy and patient-safety

How to enjoy a daily dose of exercise after brain injury

 

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References

RCOT Annual Conference 2021 - Day 2

The Lancet Countdown: Healthcare and Climate Change

Healthcare Without Harm (Europe)

Sustainable Healthcare

Sustainable Healthcare: occupational therapy

OT Susnet

TED talks

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