Future of occupational therapy

"Engage in Occupation for the Purpose of Participation"

American Occupational Therapy Association


Internationally, health systems entering the 21st century are beginning to focus on the long-term health and education needs for people of all ages, as well as the cost-effectiveness of preventative health measures. The International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) of the World Health Organization (WHO) is a classification used internationally to understand and measure health from a perspective that looks beyond mortality and disease.


On a global level, health systems are accepting the view that disability results from the dynamic interaction between the individual and his environment, rather than residing within the person himself. This perspective stresses how the ability to carry out activities and participate in life situations is an essential component of health.


The prime purpose of the internationally accepted ICF classification is to provide a unified language for describing health and health-related issues. The ICF explains how people live with their health conditions and divides health into sections described from the perspective of the body, the individual and society. This classification stresses the dynamic interplay between three dimensions of functioning - body structure and function, activity and participation.


The ICF, which has been accepted world-wide, has replaced medical models of disease with a bio-psycho-social model of health which emphasizes the participation of individuals with disabilities in society. Participation is described as involvement in life situations and represents the highest level in the hierarchy of functioning. Participation, the ultimate long-term objective of occupational therapy, is complementary to current international health trends regarding overall functioning and health.


The world is moving towards a better understanding of the importance of wellness. As this understanding develops, the philosophy and issues related to occupation will become central to helping persons with disabilities live their lives. The individualized treatment approach implemented by occupational therapists enables people with disabilities to meet the demands of their occupations, promotes well-being, prevents disability and helps people of all ages maintain optimum health.