OT: Helping people “tinker” to improve their health and well-being

By way of a post yesterday, my friend Susan, introduced me to a research group called The Institute for the Future. The range of their work is fascinating and will definitely take some time to explore and more fully consider. However, when their stated areas of interest are categories such as “work and daily life,” “technology and society,” and “health and health care,” an OT is bound to take notice! Susan posed the initial thought about what potential role OT could have in the consideration of the future proposed by IFTF’s research agenda. Specifically, IFTF’s Health Horizon’s Program has published a fascinating map to facilitate thinking about the use of science and technology to increase the “capacity for well-bring.” After considering the 2020 Forecast Map for a bit, it is clear that OT certainly has the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings to support many of the initiatives outlined here.

For instance, the challenge stated is the need to transform our bodies and lifestyle as a means to support health and well-being. As part of this challenge, issues such as obesity and aging are mentioned. In order to address this challenge, IFTF identifies four categories of “resources” that can be considered: information, practices, people, and tools. With regard to practices, it is proposed that in the future, people will benefit from “tinkering their way to well-being.” Specifically, “the health-changing practices of the coming decade will be less like heroic feats and more like tinkering…” Whereas IFTF addresses aspects of science and technology to support this practice, OTs hearts should be singing at this notion!!! This is EXACTLY what we are skilled at doing with our clients and families!

In what ways do we already help people “tinker” to improve their health and well-being? Just off the top of my head (and I know you can offer many other examples from a variety of practice settings), I think of things like:

  • adapting a task to better match a person’s skill and performance abilities
  • adapting a person’s environment to support participation in his or her daily occupations
  • suggesting changes in a person’s routine that will support occupational performance
  • facilitating participation in occupations that support health and well-being
  • utilizing adaptive equipment or other forms of technology that support occupational performance and community-based living

ITFT also addresses “tensions” that may exist such as unequal access, different rates of adoptions, and other unintended consequences. And they readily state that one of the primary tensions in healthcare is payment for services. OTs will certainly agree that this remains an ongoing challenge, especially in the realm of prevention, health promotion, and community-based programming. But it is exciciting to consider the “What ifs…?”

So what could the future look like if OTs were integral in helping people “tinker” to improve their health and well-being?

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