Occupational Therapy and sustainable development - a Swedish perspective

Ida Kåhlin's picture

Dear friends!

This is our story regarding occupational therapy and sustainable development in Sweden.  The Swedish Association of Occupational Therapists started the process in 2009. The association board had a discussion regarding the future of occupational therapy and considered sustainable development an important part of this future.  Based on our discussions the board wrote a proposal for the Swedish Association of Occupational Therapists general council meeting in 2010. This proposal had starting points both inside and outside occupational therapy and concluded that occupational therapy can contribute to sustainable development in several ways, in person-centered interventions as well as intervention on a societal level. We tried in this proposal to have an occupational perspective on sustainable development.

The resolution resulted in a publication named “Occupational therapy and sustainable development” and a special issue on sustainability in our national OT journal in 2011. In 2012 the publication was translated into English and distributed during the WFOT council meeting in Taiwan and the COTEC conference in Stockholm. This English version can be found at: https://www.arbetsterapeuterna.se/Global/Om_forbundet/Other%20languages/English/sustainable_development_rev.pdf  In the beginning of 2013 this publication was also published in the Canadian journal “Occupational Therapy Now” with our permission.

In April 2013 at the Swedish National Conference of Occupational Therapy, an open workshop exploring sustainable development in relation to occupational therapy was attended by 16 occupational therapists and 2 occupational therapy students with a special interest in the topic.  The discussions were focused on what occupational therapy can offer to support sustainable development and in what way this should be done.  The participants described both occupational therapy theory and practice as resources in society’s aspiration towards sustainable development. The participants also described challenges of occupational therapy such as lack of professional knowledge and tools and challenges related to factors in the environment. The aspiration towards sustainable development was also described as a responsibility, both in relation to each individual occupational therapist and to the entire profession including education and research.  The Swedish Association of Occupational Therapists presented these findings on a poster at the WFOT congress in Japan 2014. 

At the recent Council meeting of the Swedish Association of Occupational Therapists in November 2015, a new  version of “Descriptions of professional requirements of Occupational Therapists” was adopted. This revised version includes the requirement that the “occupational therapist have competence to practice in an ecological, economic and social sustainable way.”  

We are looking forward to seeing how occupational therapy moves forwards in the direction of sustainable development.

Best wishes/ Ida Kåhlin


Thanks for link to OT Now Swedish vision article

Diane Tingley's picture

Thanks for this Ida, I have some interesting reading matter to look forwards to.


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