Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy

Addressing Diverse Occupational Needs: What New Knowledge Do European and New Zealand Occupational Therapists Seek?

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy

Addressing Diverse Occupational Needs: What New Knowledge Do European and New Zealand Occupational Therapists Seek?

Article excerpt


This paper reports preliminary efforts to canvas occupational therapists' opinions on occupational science research priorities. Findings, while not generalizable, suggest that occupational therapists are seeking to better understand how to influence the health of children and those with chronic conditions, as well as to have knowledge that underpins their practice in the use of occupation. Occupational science can support occupational therapy practitioners to meet future changes in the scope of occupational therapy practice. The initiative reported here is a small beginning in ensuring that occupational science fulfils its promise to inform the occupational therapy profession.

Key words

Occupational science, occupational therapy practice, occupational therapy research priorities


Hocking, C., Kronenberg, F., Nayar, S., Stanley, M., Wicks, A., Wilson, L., Wright-St Clair. V., & Erlandsson, L-K. (2014). Addressing diverse occupational needs: What new knowledge do European and New Zealand occupational therapists seek? New Zealand journal of Occupational Therapy, 61(2), 39 - 47.

The original architects of occupational science in the USA intended that it would systematically build new knowledge about human occupation, thereby strengthening occupational therapy practice (Clark et al., 1991; Yerxa et al., 1989). Wilcock (1993), who led the development of occupational science in Australasia, also identified the need to develop understandings of occupation that would inform population health. It is unclear, however, whether occupational science has impacted and informed the day-to-day practice of occupational therapy practitioners around the world. Importantly, to our knowledge, occupational therapists have not been given opportunities to identify the issues they are concerned about, and to suggest what information they need to advance practice. This article reports a small scale initiative to canvas the opinions of occupational therapists attending national and international occupational therapy conferences. The occupational therapists were asked to prioritise the research questions proposed by a panel of occupational scientists.

Literature review

Occupational science provides a scholarly space in which ideas about occupation can be explored. Prominent research contributions are the Lifestyle Redesign programmes developed by researchers at the University of Southern California (Clark et al., 2012) and Wilcock's (2006) occupational perspective of health. Beyond those central foci, occupational science researchers have advanced knowledge in a plethora of different directions. For example, in a single volume of the Journal of Occupational Science, familiar ideas such as occupational balance were revisited, Mussbaum's capabilities theory was introduced, and topics as diverse as childhood obesity and the relationship between human occupation and environmental issues were examined from an occupational perspective. See Table 1.

Some of the ideas proposed by occupational scientists promise to both empower occupational therapists and extend the profession's scope of practice. The concept of occupational justice has been the subject of intense scholarship (Stadnyk, Townsend, & Wilcock, 2009; Thibeault, 2013). Similarly, the notion of occupational rights has been further elaborated (Hammell & Iwama, 2012), applied to client groups (see for example Arthanat, Simmons, & Favreau, 2012; Galvan, Wilding, & Whiteford, 2011), and used to link occupational therapists' efforts to address the high levels of unemployment amongst people with mental illness with the United Nations' human rights agenda (United Nations General Assembly, 1991). Occupational justice was at the heart of a recent call to extend occupational therapy services in the UK to address the needs of women and children who have been the victims of domestic violence (Cage, 2007). …

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