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Ava Collier 

Florida Gulf Coast University 

FGCU Colloquium Class Spring 2021 CRN 12739

Dr. Peter Ndiang’ui 

Resurrection Sunday, April 4th, 2021 

Word Count : 1,557

My major is health sciences, and I am studying to pursue pediatric occupational therapy. In this field, I would perform rehabilitation techniques and services on children who are injured or ill children. This can range from mental to physical illnesses. For instance, if a child had a major accident that injured a part of their brain that prevents them from performing simple life tasks like; getting dressed, writing, eating, talking, etc. I would help them regain as much mobility and strength as possible to complete these tasks and basic life skills.

Most people confuse physical therapy with occupational therapy because their levels of study and rehabilitation methods can be quite similar, but they are two separate services. “Generally, physical therapists specialize in how the body moves. If a worker has lost mobility due to an injury, they’ll help them get that back. They can even help prevent lost mobility with fitness and stretching programs. Occupational therapists are focused on treating things that keep patients from doing daily tasks. These can range from simple tasks to complex job activities” (Grand, 2018). Though these jobs require their own techniques and skills, they are still a branch in the medical field. This field is known for advocating for people’s health, but by doing so, it is harming our environment. Health science fields are studying more ways to promote and become more environmentally sustainable and friendly.

To be environmentally sustainable, one must be committed to making certain changes in their life to protect the earth and its organisms, and conserve natural resources. This might mean making a switch in your diet to become Vegan since meat production is a large contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Or finding ways to use your car less often, using reusable shopping bags instead of paper or plastic, prevent littering and being cautious of what you buy, or being more aware of your actions and how they affect the earth. We all have the ability to make changes in our lifestyle, to benefit all life on earth. 

In my field of study, connecting children with nature and allowing them to explore the beauty of the earth and how it heals us, would be a holistic approach to occupational therapy. Fixing people is not the only way we can have a truly healthy society, at all If we incorporate sustainability in each field of study and science research, we can educate the public on how and why it matters. “Education has been identified as one of the most powerful means of creating a climate culture change. It is recommended that new educational materials be developed. Research is required to develop the emerging evidence base around sustainable occupational performance and occupational therapy practice. New research partnerships are needed between different disciplines and member countries. National Associations can support the principles of environmentally sustainable best practice dependent on their country’s environmental, social and economic context. National associations are encouraged to share examples of environmentally sustainable best practice” (World Federation of Occupational Therapists, 2020). These are just a few examples of how we can incorporate environmentally sustainable practices. 

Sometimes people lose control of being able to use their limbs and fine motor skills. Tending to gardens and working in nature can be therapeutic and help people with their dexterity. Getting kids to plant trees, fruits, and flowers is not only connecting children to nature, it is giving back to the earth as well. This is also recognized as horticultural therapy which is garnering for therapeutic and rehabilitative purposes. “Horticultural therapy techniques are employed to assist participants to learn new skills or regain those that are lost. Horticultural therapy helps improve memory, cognitive abilities, task initiation, language skills, and socialization. In physical rehabilitation, horticultural therapy can help strengthen muscles and improve coordination, balance, and endurance. In vocational horticultural therapy settings, people learn to work independently, problem-solve, and follow directions. Horticultural therapists are professionals with specific education, training, and credentials in the use of horticultural for therapy and rehabilitation” (American Horticultural Therapy Association, 2021). This is an environmentally friendly approach to taking care of the body and earth. 

My mother always believed that there is a natural cure for every sickness that’s been identified. I too believe that there is a natural remedy for sicknesses and illnesses. Instead of using westernized technology and man-made medications that come with all of these symptoms and problems, we should explore more natural medicines and herbs that heal us. However, the futuristic problem attached to this can be overharvesting plants for consumer purposes. We have to think of sustainable ways to use natural resources only at a rate where they can be replenished. 

“Roughly 75% of the top 150 prescription drugs in the United States are based on natural sources, and over 25% of prescribed medicines in developed countries are derived from wild plants. We’ve also seen a multibillion-dollar boom in the herbal market, fueled largely by a desire to find “natural approaches” to medicine. In addition, up to 80% of people in developing countries are totally dependent on herbal drugs for their primary healthcare. When you add all of this up, it’s no surprise that medicinal plants are facing significant overharvesting pressures. The best way that most companies large and small can help prevent overharvesting is to “green” their supply chain. “Greening the supply chain” adds an environmental lens to traditional supply-chain management practices. Greening the supply chain is also an effective strategy for combating other biodiversity threats, such as habitat destruction and pollution” (E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, 2021). 

Businesses should be encouraged to have as little environmental harm as possible. Health care in the medical field can have detrimental effects on the environment. Almost 10% of greenhouse gas emissions are due to healthcare; polluting our air, water, and soil. “In 2013, the health care sector was also responsible for significant fractions of national air pollution emissions and impacts, including acid rain (12%), greenhouse gas emissions (10%), smog formation (10%) criteria air pollutants (9%), stratospheric ozone depletion (1%), and carcinogenic and non-carcinogenic air toxics (1–2%)” (National Center for Biotechnology Information, 2020). Though some hospitals and clinics are discovering and researching more environmentally friendly approaches to sustaining a functional hospice center, healthcare is still a major pollutant factor to the environment. 

Some simple ways of minimizing the environmental harm in the medical field can include; water, food and, fuel conservation, re-purposing medical devices, upgrade to energy-efficient technology, clean and disinfect with natural products, and reducing chemical exposure. This will not only benefit the environment, but the health of medical employees, staff, and patients. Being more eco-friendly is a topic that many hospitals and clinical centers are beginning to explore. We as a nation are becoming more aware of how much we have put the health of the earth in jeopardy.

Occupational therapists try to be aware of how their patient’s physical environment contributes to their health or lack of. The separation of nature has effects on how quickly one’s body can recover and heal. Our well-being has a direct connection to the health of our environment. It can hinder or help our physical and mental strength as well. It all begins with education; occupational therapists should learn about environmental sustainability and how it affects our health. OT clinics should work with programs and communities that encourage them to contribute to human and ecosystem health. They should then empower and encourage other people and to the same. Addressing these topics and starting conversations about them, will create a domino effect. This is how we can teach and practice environmentally-friendly actions. 

Efforts in reducing the amount of environmental harm that is created in one field of study, will not go unnoticed. The more facilities and hospitals that incorporate these eco-friendly changes, will encourage others to do so as well. Understanding how critical it is to keep our world healthy will fuel people to making more personal lifestyle changes. Learning about environmental sustainably has definitely challenged me to take a look at my ecological footprint, and make some improvements. Occupational therapists should thrive to healing patients and the earth by adapting and learning these ways

References:

American Occupational Therapy Association. (2019). What is occupational therapy? Aota.org. https://www.aota.org/Conference-Events/OTMonth/what-is-OT.aspx

American Horticultural Therapy Association. (2019). About Horticultural Therapy. Ahta.org. https://www.ahta.org/horticultural-therapy

Eckelman, M. J., & Sherman, J. (2016). Environmental Impacts of the U.S. Health Care System and Effects on Public Health. PLOS ONE11(6), e0157014. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0157014

E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation» How Businesses Can Help Make Half-Earth a Reality: Reducing the Threat of Overharvesting. (n.d.). https://eowilsonfoundation.org/how-businesses-can-help-make-half-earth-a-reality-reducing-the-threat-of-overharvesting/

Grant, Morgan. (2018). Concentra. The Difference Between Occupational and Physical Therapy. Concentra https://www.concentra.com/resource-center/articles/the-difference-between-occupational-and-physical-therapy/

Law, M. (1991). The Environment: A Focus for Occupational Therapy. Canadian Journal of Occupational Therapy58(4), 171–179. https://doi.org/10.1177/000841749105800404

Skubik-Peplaski, C. (n.d.). Environmental Influences on Occupational Therapy. Environmental Influences on Occupational Therapy Practice. https://uknowledge.uky.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=rehabsci_etds

Therapists, W. F. of O. (2021, April 4). Environmental Sustainability, Sustainable Practice within…. WFOT. https://wfot.org/resources/environmental-sustainability-sustainable-practice-within-occupational-therapy

Wagman, P., Johansson, A., Jansson, I., Lygnegård, F., Edström, E., Björklund Carlstedt, A., Morville, A.-L., Ahlstrand, I., & Fristedt, S. (2020). Making sustainability in occupational therapy visible by relating to the Agenda 2030 goals – A case description of a Swedish university. World Federation of Occupational Therapists Bulletin76(1), 7–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/14473828.2020.1718266