Present and Future Roles of Occupational Therapists in Reducing Poverty

Investigators: Roshan Jayaratne (Student OT, Yr.2), Timothy Park (Student OT, Yr.2) and Dr. Lynn Cockburn from the Department of OS&OT at the University of Toronto and Dr. Michael Polanyi from the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto.

Year of study: 2015/16


Our research study is interested in exploring the current and potential roles of occupational therapists in poverty reduction work. Poverty has an impact on a person’s ability to participate in meaningful occupations. Hence, occupational therapists (OTs) have been involved in offsetting the impact of poverty as part of their practice. The ways in which occupational therapists are situated in both community and hospital services can be vital points-of-entry for poverty reduction work. OTs are known to provide physical, social, and/or mental health services via community agencies, health care organizations (hospitals, chronic care facilities, rehabilitation centres), schools and private practice. However, the role of occupational therapists in reducing poverty is sparsely cited in the literature. There is limited research on how poverty impacts occupational therapy, and how occupational therapists can be involved in poverty reduction. If clear definitive roles could be determined, OTs would be better informed on how to combat poverty in Canada.

Our current study is investigating the current and potential roles of OTs in poverty reduction to work towards a more concrete definition. A goal of this project is to better understand the ways that occupational therapists are engaged in poverty reduction work, and to provide future direction for the profession.