International development of occupational therapy: what will you contribute?
Article Type: Editorial
Subject: Occupational therapy (Usage)
Occupational therapists (Practice)
Occupational therapists (Services)
Wellness programs (Usage)
Authors: Brintnell, Sharon
Laver-Fawcett, Alison J.
Ledgerd, Ritchard
Pub Date: 10/01/2011
Publication: Name: British Journal of Occupational Therapy Publisher: College of Occupational Therapists Ltd. Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2011 College of Occupational Therapists Ltd. ISSN: 0308-0226
Issue: Date: Oct, 2011 Source Volume: 74 Source Issue: 10
Topic: Event Code: 200 Management dynamics; 360 Services information
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United Kingdom Geographic Code: 4EUUK United Kingdom
Accession Number: 271053259
Full Text: Occupational therapists are accustomed to thinking of themselves as members of a small profession. In many countries that is still true, but the profession is growing globally. International labour force statistics are compiled by the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) and the most recent statistics (Ledgerd 2011) show that there are over 354,800 occupational therapists worldwide. There are 56 countries with full WFOT member status, 13 with associate member status and five contributing members. There are nearly 1000 occupational therapy education programmes worldwide, of which 685 are WFOT approved. The four countries with the largest number of occupational therapists and education programmes are Germany, Japan, the United States of America and the United Kingdom (UK). However, the UK has only 190 individual WFOT members representing less than one per cent of the 23,952 professional, 4389 student and 306 retired members of the British Association of Occupational Therapists eligible to apply. Do occupational therapists in the UK understand and value what WFOT does? Are they interested in contributing to the international progress of occupational therapy?

The WFOT advocates for the development of the profession worldwide through its Position Statements, Minimum Standards of Education and direct meetings with government officials in countries where groups are lobbying for the recognition of occupational therapy as an essential service. It responds to government and university requests for assistance in establishing occupational therapy education programmes. It initiates interaction where there are discriminatory practices relating to professional autonomy and access to occupational therapy services. It contributes to global issues in health, human rights, development and, increasingly, disaster preparedness and response. Through its 50-year affiliation with the World Health Organisation (WHO), WFOT has contributed to projects and documents on disability issues (Sinclair 2009). The latest example of its participation is the World Report on Disability (WHO 2011).

In the UK, the Department of Health (DH) publishes principles for international development work undertaken by National Health Service (NHS) staff (DH 2010). There is increasing recognition of the professional and personal rewards of working overseas and the knowledge that can be brought back to benefit NHS service users. The DH (2010) encourages employers to consider granting career breaks to NHS staff, including occupational therapists, to engage in this international work, guided by the needs of developing countries and coordinated to provide more sustainable and effective developments.

Becoming an Individual Member of WFOT is not just relevant for those therapists seeking work in another country. It provides a portal to connect you to thousands of colleagues worldwide. This can benefit your continuing professional development and facilitate your involvement in the growth of a truly unified profession. Both the voluntary human resource and the funds generated through individual and national association membership enables WFOT's representation of a global profession to the world and its influential players. It ensures that the advancement of our profession through education, research and service development is fostered to enhance the quality of life for many people living with disability across the globe. Celebrate World Occupational Therapy Day on 27 October 2011 by becoming an Individual Member of WFOT at and make a difference.

Key words: World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT), World Health Organisation (WHO), international, demographics, membership, World Occupational Therapy Day.

DOI: 10.4276/030802211X13182481841822

Department of Health (2010) The framework for NHS involvement in international development. Available at: Accessed 08.07.11.

Ledgerd R (2011) Report: World Federation of Occupational Therapists Human Resources Project 2010--Demographic profile of WFOT member organisations/countries. World Federation of Occupational Therapists Bulletin, 63(May), 9-15.

Sinclair K (2009) WFOT celebrates 50 years collaboration with WHO. World Federation of Occupational Therapists Bulletin, 60(November), 6-8.

World Health Organisation (2011) World Report on Disability. Available at: Accessed 08.07.11.

Sharon Brintnell, (1) Alison J Laver-Fawcett (2) and Ritchard Ledgerd (3)

(1) President of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT), and Professor of Occupational Therapy, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

(2) FJAOT/COT Council Member for International Affairs (WFOT) and WFOT delegate, and Head of Programme, FHSc(Hons) full-time Occupational Therapy, York St John University, York, UK.

(3) Programme Coordinator--Promotion and Development, WFOT, and Clinical Researcher, North East London NHS Foundation Trust, London, UK.

Corresponding author: Dr Alison J Laver-Fawcett, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, York St John University, Lord Mayor's Walk, York YO31 7EX. Email:
Gale Copyright: Copyright 2011 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.