Advocacy

Serving the profession since 1926, the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists (CAOT) is the professional organization that gives voice to the more than 16,000 occupational therapists who work or study in Canada. With our national office located in Ottawa and regional chapters in British Columbia and Quebec, CAOT engages in advocacy initiatives that position our professional community to better serve Canadians. Working closely with federal, provincial and international affiliates and partners, CAOT promotes occupational therapy and advances leadership within the profession by addressing priorities and plans that are guided by its membership.

See CAOT’s Position Statements.

Meet CAOT’s Advocacy Partners.

Review CAOT’s Advocacy Framework.

Advocacy focus

CAOT aims to improve the health and well-being of Canadians by supporting its members in having a rewarding, fulfilling occupational therapy career that recognizes the profession’s scope of practice and employs their unique skills, holistic client-centred approach, evidence-based interventions and collaborative work ethic. By engaging with stakeholders in the public, private and allied health care sectors, CAOT promotes the profession of occupational therapy as an essential component of an efficient and effective Canadian health care system.  The focus is on:

  • Extended Health Insurance:  Continue meetings and activities that set the building blocks to inclusion of occupational therapy services in public and private insurance plans as part of extended health benefits.
  • Occupational therapy value: Initiate and respond to relevant opportunities to address pressing health and societal concerns such as opioid use and misuse, quality end-of-life care, older driver safety, mental health strategy, home care and seniors’ aging in place with evidence-based messaging that educates and promotes the value of occupational therapy to key stakeholders.
  • Federally-administered health programs: Continue strategic outreach to federal departments to increase the complement of occupational therapists employed in federally administered health programs and departments such as Armed Forces, Veterans Affairs and First Nations.
  • Interprofessional health care teams:  Engage with government nationally, and provincially in British Columbia and Quebec, to influence legislation and policy in areas related to population health, health care funding and health system transformation in order to see more occupational therapists included and funded on interprofessional health care teams.

Key messages

CAOT believes that optimal care results from an occupational therapist being on the health care team. Including occupational therapists in relevant conversations regarding Federal health transfers and the health care system will bring about more robust solutions for the allocation of scarce health care dollars.

  • Occupational therapists remove barriers to everyday living so that people can live their lives to the fullest. 
  • Occupational therapy is a high impact, low cost health service that supports Canadians to stay well, remain in their homes and continue to be engaged and active in their workplace and community.
  • Occupational therapy is both client-centred and holistic – serving the mental, physical, spiritual and environmental needs of Canadians.
  • With a unique mix of education and skills training addressing all age groups across many care settings (acute, home, community), occupational therapists provide superior value to the Canadian health care system through early assessment and intervention, preventive strategies and rehabilitation.
  • Occupational therapy interventions are both cost effective and clinically effective contributions to the positive health and well-being outcomes for Canadians. These interventions:

-          accelerate recovery from illness or injury,

-          improve management of illness and disability through personalized care strategies,

-          regain independence through rehabilitation,

-          decrease the risk of illness recurrence or need for hospital readmission,

-          decrease the risk of disability through preventive strategies, and

-          reduce absenteeism in the workplace that can result from illness 

Recent initiatives

Aligning with family physicians

To extend the impact of our advocacy regarding the inclusion of more occupational therapists on interprofessional health care teams, CAOT is connecting with Canada’s family physicians to encourage them to “Put an OT on your team!” Recently CAOT:

  • Hosted a booth at the annual Family Medicine Forum, attended by over 3,000 family physicians, sharing key messages regarding the benefits of OT inclusion on interprofessional teams, and:
  • Distributed “Put an OT on your team” materials to ensure “The Right Team. The Right Care.” 

Download the “Put an OT on your team” card

Download the “Put an OT on your team” fact sheet

  • Presented a driving retirement session with the aim to help physicians identify when to refer their senior patients to an occupational therapist to address the important activity of driving.

Pursuing increased funding for occupational therapy services for seniors

With the aim of securing more funding for the inclusion of occupational therapy services on interprofessional teams, specifically in support of Canada’s growing cohort of seniors, CAOT has devised strategies to reach influential government audiences with key messages that support this outcome. To this end CAOT:

  • Addressed the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) as they sought input on their ‘aging in place’ initiative titled “Advancing Inclusion and Quality of Life for Canadian Seniors.” 
    • CAOT delivered a briefing document and fact sheet with the recommendation that “as part of the $5B in Federal transfers to provinces for home care, provinces be mandated to ensure that occupational therapists are an integral part of all primary care teams and home and community care service teams that provide services to seniors.”
  • Exchanged information, offered assistance and strategized with influential Members of Parliament involved in supporting the health and well-being of Canadian seniors.  CAOT met with:
    • MP Deborah Shulte, Seniors’ Caucus Chair, and
    • MP Alice Wong, Shadow Minister responsible for Seniors

Preparing occupational therapists for work with the military

Occupational therapists provide a valuable high-impact, low-cost role in federally administered health plans. A current advocacy focus is to increase the complement of occupational therapists serving in these departments.  In support of this:

  • CAOT has produced a guidance document to better prepare occupational therapists for work within the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC).
  • CAOT has collaborated with the CAF and VAC in the development of this guidance document and, together, have articulated specific occupational therapy skills required to meet the mandate of these departments.
  • CAOT attended and hosted a booth at the 2017 Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR) Forum to meet with the military community and to further introduce the new guidance document.
  • A copy of the guidance document was sent to the Federal Ministers of National Defence and of Veterans Affairs.

Read “A Message from the Canadian Armed Forces

Read “A Message from Veterans Affairs Canada”

Outcome: The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) announced approval of funding for up to 30 occupational therapist positions, from a current count of four, increasing access to occupational therapy services during the critical transition stages that military personnel face throughout their career and lifetime. 

Next: To help prepare for a role within the military, CAOT is hosting a webinar “Working for the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada: Guidance for occupational therapists”

December 14 2017, 12pm – 1pm ET.  Presenter Katelyn Bridge. Registration is free.

Addressing the opioid crisis

In response to a call from the Federal Minister of Health, CAOT has joined 12 other health professions and research bodies to help to address opioid misuse by identifying potential ways forward that optimize non-pharmacological pain management alternatives in Canada. To date CAOT has:

  • Become a founding member of the ‘Coalition for Safe and Effective Pain Management’ (CSEPM) and contributed to the Joint Statement of Action to Address the Opioid Crisis, with a prioritized list of actionable items that CAOT commits to delivering as an association and as part of the coalition,
  • Proposed and documented three specific non-pharmacological OT interventions as alternatives to opioids, 
  • Developed and shared two occupational therapy policy options for the Canadian health system that could reduce the impact of opioid use, 

Met to develop consensus recommendations on how best to implement strategies for non-pharmacological treatment and intervention in pain management so as to reduce reliance on opioids.

In a November 13 press release, announced delivery of an interim report outlining a better approach to pain management that includes four strategic directions:

Strategic Direction 1: Embed non-pharmacological pain management as part of essential healthcare in Canada.  

Strategic Direction 2: Empower patients and prescribers to make safe choices in pain management.

Strategic Direction 3: Integrate non-pharmacological pain management in primary care settings.

Strategic Direction 4: Ensure everyone in Canada has timely access to non-pharmacological pain management.

There are six priorities for implementing these directions.  Read The Coalition for Safe and Effective Pain Management (CSEPM) Interim Report. 

Lobbying for change

  • CAOT has been a visible and active advocate for occupational therapy at public and private sector meetings and conferences at: Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Research (CIMVR), the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), the Canada 2020 Healthcare Summit, the Opioid conference, the Assembly of First Nations’ Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) Program, the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA), the McMaster Health Forum and more

Advocacy resources

For sharing:

  • Occupational therapy ad


  • Student video, “Because of Occupational Therapy” 

Copyright 2016 Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists
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