The Call Up: Sharing Our Knowledge and Skills to Make a Difference
Professor Gail Whiteford (BAppSc; MHSc: PhD) FOTARA
I recently read a piece by well-known social commentator Waleed Aly. In it he described us as “an anxious public dealing with something well beyond its experience and at the very limits of its understanding”.
Generally speaking, he’s right, the COVID-19 situation is not one we could have imagined and were probably not prepared for. However, if there was a collective of people who do have experience and understandings of the impacts of dramatically altered patterns of occupational participation—which is what is happening at a mass level—that would be us. Think about it.
We have the knowledge base and the skill set that is highly relevant for the scenario we are living through right now. I find this deeply reassuring and hope you do too. Also, like me, I hope you were both pleased and proud to see the release of the OT COVID 19 Guide developed by Lorrae Mynard. It’s excellent, and I have heard from colleagues overseas that they have accessed it, distributed it (very quickly it seems) and found it a beacon of hope personally and professionally.
However, being pleased and reassured is not enough. Given that we have this professionally unique knowledge base and skill set, we have a moral and societal obligation to share what we know, and do what we can to make a difference. In particular, it seems to me that we have to attend to the impacts of various levels of inequities in society and how they are impacting on individuals, families and communities in the current context.
If we use the CORE Approach (see Pereira et al, 2020) which requires us to consider Capabilities, Opportunities, Resources and Environments, then it becomes apparent very quickly that whilst we are all facing diminished opportunities for occupational participation right now, a real divide is evident with respect to resources and environments.
There are many groups of people who were vulnerable before the current crisis. People who did not have either access to resources or environments to support diverse forms of occupational participation. Their situation has worsened considerably. In particular, although we will all experience occupational deprivation to some extent in the current situation, vulnerable groups are more likely to be impacted more profoundly.
So, as well as sharing our knowledge and skills in occupational and environmental adaptation, we can also share our professional understandings of what occupational deprivation is and what its impacts can be. In order to support us in this endeavour, Occupational Therapy Australia is making available its National Position Statement on Occupational Deprivation as a resource.
I urge you to think about it, talk about it and then consider what you might do to help reach that small but comparatively silent army of (very occupationally deprived) people out there who are really doing it tough. If ever there was a time in which our profession has had a collective call up, that time is now.