Occupational Therapy and the Movement
(ASAP-Katipunan presents a series of articles from our members hailing from different degree programs. The first of the series is Marahuyo’s [her alias] article, a student who found her relevance as an OT scholar in the movement.)
Being a student in a medical-related course is not easy. In fact, with the weight of our responsibilities to learn and master our field of study, I don’t think it will ever be. But there is a more challenging role — being a student-activist in a medical-related course.
I am an Occupational Therapy student at UP Manila. A lot of people don’t know what my degree program is, or what do we study and do every single day. I have even made sure that I have a clear, ready answer when people ask what occupational therapists do, and how does it differ to a physical therapist.
Occupational therapy makes use of everyday life activities (otherwise known as occupations) with the purpose of enhancing or enabling participation in roles, habits, and routines at different settings within their society. Simply put, the aim of occupational therapy is to improve a person’s functional ability and quality of life.
Beyond that, our first stakeholders as OT are persons with disabilities (PWD). Our vision is to help PWDs get a better life in a society that puts premium on people who are deemed “complete” and “fully-abled.”
Simply put, the aim of occupational therapy is to improve a person’s functional ability and quality of life.
That’s what we do — we help people get back to their lives and be a functional part of the society they are a part of. Furthermore, we struggle not just to rehabilitate or to prevent people from getting ill, but in helping them have a state of well-being.
But we must go beyond looking at the well-being of the individual, more importantly, we must look at the well-being of the society. We must look at how a PWD is alienated in the society. We must look at how we can create a movement to empower people not just by rehabilitating them, but rehabilitating society itself to not look down upon PWDs. Looking back, I think that is where activism hit me. I am involved in the movement because I have seen the impact that we can do.
As occupational therapists, we need to see our field of expertise as key to achieving human dignity for all. A part of the overall dignity that we fight for are the basic social services that everyone must rightfully have. A part of helping people have a state of well-being is fighting for them to have it.
But we must go beyond looking at the well-being of the individual, more importantly, we must look at the well-being of the society.
And we occupational therapists know that Filipinos are so far from having it — evidenced by the fact that a lot of Filipinos haven’t seen a doctor in their lifetime, much more, us. A lot of people that we encounter have little treatment-seeking behavior because they would always prioritize earning money rather than spending it on a hospital. In the end, we are seen as a privilege. The number and cost of treatments, follow-ups, et cetera — they all contribute to seeing this service as such.
As occupational therapists, as advocates of public health, of a healthcare system for all, it is valid to ask whether we are reaching enough people. It is valid to ask ourselves whether they understand our profession. It is valid to ask if PWDs get enough attention, help, and empowerment. It is even valid to ask ourselves and the institutions that surround us and our fellowmen if we are doing enough to be relevant in societal change and in the well-being of the masses.
And this is why we continue to demand the government to provide its citizens with free, accessible, and quality healthcare. Filipinos have that right — they deserve the right to be taken to a hospital, get their meds, and if needed, see an occupational therapist. Our well-being as a society depends on the well-being of the most unfortunate of us. So we continue to fight, we continue to take what is rightfully ours.
As therapists, we embody service. Occupational therapy does not pick a social class. We do not choose which clients we will be helping, because that goes against our belief that everybody deserves the chance to get our services. And as social inequality remains in our society, there will be a great divide between what the upper and middle classes access and experience, to those who belong to the lower class.
I am part of the movement because I believe that the masses need our services. After all, being an OT is the same as being an activist. The goal of OTs to rehab our patients are the same with the goal of an activist to improve the quality of life of people around him/her. Both strive to make everyone healthy for the good of society. I will fight until a simple farmer, factory worker, a child, a woman, or a poor Filipino can seek our help.
After all, being an OT is the same as being an activist.
I am a medical student- activist, and the reason I am is because I firmly believe that occupational therapy services should not be restricted to those privileged enough to know about our profession.
Health services must be available for all.
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