Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology’s (JKUAT) students and staff from the department of Rehabilitative Sciences joined the global health community in celebrating World Occupational Therapy Day on October 27. This is the first time the event was observed in Kenya.
Since its inception in 2010, the World Occupational Therapy Day serves to recognize the expertise in occupational therapy and raise awareness on a profession whose focus is treating physical, sensory, or cognitive problems without drugs or operations (hence the term therapy) to enable a person of any age undertake regular activities and lead a productive life.
These problems could have arisen as a result of sudden illness (e.g. suffering stroke), nerve injury, loss of limbs from an accident, mental disorders, dementia from old age, or could have developed at birth (e.g. autism or cerebral palsy). Occupational Therapy has been successful in treating speech and learning problems, substance abuse, and even birth defects, among others.
Speaking during the event, Secretary General Kenya Occupational Therapists Association (KOTA), Mr. Jackson Koskei, lauded JKUAT efforts in marking the day saying there was need to publicize the profession given its significance in helping individuals regain control over their lives after traumatic events.
“Occupational Therapy is essential and should therefore be at the heart of policy making. Currently, KOTA is working on ensuring that there is a proper framework that can advance this profession,” said Mr. Koskei.
KOTA has also ensured that Covid-19 guidelines factor in Occupational Therapy, which focuses on the psychosocial welfare of the patients. Presently, quarantine centres such as Kenya Medical Training Centre (KMTC) are utilizing Occupational Therapists to keep people active.
JKUAT was the first institution in East Africa to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Occupational Therapy and has graduated over 60 students since 2012. Among them are regional students from Tanzania, Nigeria, and Uganda.
Dr Daniel Kariuki, the Coordinator BSc. Occupational Therapy, JKUAT, expressed his desire to have more students join the programme in future as its expertise is highly sought locally and abroad yet it is unfamiliar with people.
“Our students gain employment in diverse settings which include hospitals, pediatric centers, and other sectors in the industry because Occupational Therapy is applicable everywhere. The professionals we release to the market are in demand because they are very few,” stated Dr. Kariuki.
The one-day event saw a demonstration of the two-pronged approaches used in Occupational therapy; educating
laypersons on how to deal with various issues handled by occupational therapists and how one can modify the environment to accommodate these challenges.
The theme for this year’s event was Reimagine Doing, which translates to the ability to live life despite illness given the strengthened capacity provided by occupational therapy.
In attendance were occupational therapists from Kenya Institute of Special Education (KISE), Mama Lucy Hospital, Mukuru Health Centre, Medex East Africa, Kenyatta National Hospital and representatives from KOTA.