Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy

Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 2020


In 2010, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) identified strategic goals for health promotion and disease prevention in Healthy People 2020. Some of the overarching goals were to “achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve the health of all groups” in order to address inequities tied to race and ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, geography, and disability (p. 3). The plan also targeted health disparities by recognizing social determinants of health and creating “social and physical environments that promote good health,” including the development of policy and programs (HHS, 2010, p. 3). Health disparities are population specific and quantify “differences in disease rates, health outcomes, and access to health care services” (American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA], 2013, p. S48). In times of crisis, vulnerable populations may be particularly susceptible to disease, illness, and mortality because of health disparities related to social and environmental barriers and determinants of health. AOTA’s official stand on nondiscrimination and inclusion is that every individual be treated fairly and equitably (AOTA, 2014b); that an individual’s culture, race, ethnicity, age, and capacities be respected; and that all occupational therapy personnel avoid prejudice and bias (AOTA, 2015). As a profession, occupational therapy promotes access and inclusion and limits health disparities in daily practice. Advocacy is a critical role and value of the profession for promoting resilience for populations based on health equity and occupational justice.