VOLUME 6(4), JULY/AUGUST 2004
October is National Occupational Therapy Month
Start your plans now!
The National OT Month Commitee meets monthly to update each other about plans that are underway in the provinces, territories, the Canadian Occupational Therapy Foundation (COTF) and CAOT. As you recall, the target audience for this year’s OT Month activities are third-party payers. Third-party payers may include extended health-care providers, auto insurers, workers’ compensation boards, employers, lawyers, etc.
Each organization is identifying which of these payers they will target for their activities depending on the threats and opportunities, specific to their region. For example, in New Brunswick they wish to increase the demand for occupational therapy on extended health-care benefit plans. They are developing posters that encourage people to push for occupational therapy services on these plans. The posters will appear in doctors’ reception areas and other areas where there is a high volume of people seeking health-care services.
For information regarding your province or territory’s specific initiatives, please contact the individual committee member listed on the left or the organization’s main number.
CAOT to focus on workplace mental health
The increase of depression and stress-related illnesses in the workplace is driving the costs of extended health-care plans higher and higher. CAOT recognizes that occupational therapists have an important role in not only returning people to work but also preventing time loss from work due to mental health problems. Recent media attention regarding Toxic environment: The high cost of workplace stress (Ottawa Citizen, May 17, 2004) and The crushing cost of fear (Globe and Mail, April 14, 2004) reinforce that businesses need help in understanding how to address this growing threat to employee health and productivity.
During OT Month, CAOT will be releasing information to the media regarding stories about people with mental health problems who were able to return to work with the help of occupational therapy, how high-profile people manage their stress and tips on maintaining a healthy work/life balance.
You can support these activities by doing similar activities in your workplace. How does your CEO cope with stress? Many people claim to be balance experts but what is occupational therapy’s unique approach to this? How can you help your coworkers to reduce stress on the job?
The special edition of OT Now, released in early September, will describe our role in workplace health, outline recent research regarding its effectiveness and feature success stories about people who were able to return to work due to occupational therapy.
Our poster, sent to each member, with extra copies available at cost, will be in the form of a calendar with monthly tips for promoting healthy workplaces.
These activities will also help to support larger, related awareness campaigns such as Mental IIlness Awareness Week held the first week of October and the Business Year for Mental Health 2004-2005.
Full month offers more flexibility
Having a full month to plan activities takes the pressure off “doing it all” in just one week. Whatever you can do during the month, no matter how small, will help increase awareness of our services.
COTF is planning a walk/jog-athon which will raise funds for the foundation but has the potential to involve others in the event. Consider organizing a team in your community. Exercise 20 to 30 minutes three times a week reduces tension, depression and anger — a perfect strategy for improving your mental health.
The National OT Month Committee will continue to keep you informed as more plans solidify across the country. Watch for updates on the CAOT web site and in your provincial/territorial communications. In the meantime, take a look at these 10 steps to a successful month and start planning now.
10 steps to a successful National OT Month
1. Know where you are headed
The goal of occupational therapy month is to promote the awareness of occupational therapy services to third-party payers who may include insurers, workers compensation boards, employers, etc. Is there a particular threat or opportunity in your area that could be addressed through an OT Month strategy? Contact your provincial/territorial association for assistance or consider adopting CAOT’s work/life balance strategies.
2. Organize your OT Month committee
The combined efforts of your committee members can make planning successful and interesting. Ask people to volunteer. With busy schedules, few people will come forward so you often need to approach them with a message of “more hands make lesser work for all.” Don’t forget to invite students too. At your first meeting schedule all the rest of the meetings, so that everyone can plan around these dates and times; then… brainstorm, brainstorm and plan, plan, plan.
3. Who do you hope will learn something about occupational therapy?
The answer is your target audience and for this year, it’s third-party payers. Choose one that either knows little about occupational therapy or has a limited viewpoint. OT Month is your chance to augment or change their perspective.
4. What do you want people to learn about occupational therapy?
This will depend on the third-party payer you are targetting. However for workplace mental health, it may include:
How occupational therapists help people to return to work via functional capacity evaluations, work-site analysis, employee education, ergonomic analyses, etc.
How occupational therapists can help employers to reduce stress on the job.
Be specific and explain the return on investment by hiring occupational therapists.
5. Plan the how
You’ve determined what you want to say, and to whom. Now consider how you can best accomplish this. Through activities or events? A media contact program? A direct mail campaign?
6. Plan the when and where
What is the best time of day/evening for your chosen activities/events? What are the best days of National OT Month for these? Where should you hold your events? At your workplace? Outside the workplace?
7. Your OT Month committee is key
Once you’ve decided the what you want to teach, the who you want to learn, how you’re going to do it, when and where... you are ready to put your plan into action. Make a list of what has to be done and when, and assign specific responsibilities to each OT Month committee member. Have regular committee meetings to make sure you are on schedule.
8. Who else can assist you?
Is there a public relations or communications officer in your workplace? If yes, ask your own experts how they might help make OT Month successful both in your workplace and outside.
Can you afford it?
Sometimes the ideas are brilliant but require more money than you have to make them happen. Perhaps you can get companies or organizations to sponsor your ideas. Develop a list of ways to publicly acknowledge your sponsors. For example, you could thank them on your pamphlets or display signs at your events.
9. During National OT Month
Use your poster and the September OT Now — a special edition on occupational therapy and mental health in the workplace. Display it in your facility or outside to reach a new group of people. Use the OT Fact Sheets available on the CAOT web site. Include them in news releases to the media for background information, submit them to you facility’s newsletter or give it out during presentations. You may wish to place the fact sheet information on your own letterhead. Make sure you include your own contact information: name, address, phone and fax numbers.
Take photos of activities, people, displays, etc. You can use them in your facility’s newsletter, or the local media might be interested in receiving one or two with a news release about your event. Be sure to get signed releases from any staff or clients.
10. After National OT Month
Have a wrap-up meeting with your OT Month committee as soon after the month as possible. You’ve worked hard and congratulations are in order!
Remember to thank everyone who helped make the month such a success. A thank-you note is always appreciated and increases the chance these people will help again next year.
Do make notes about what worked, what didn’t, what should stay the same or could be changed for next year. These notes will be very helpful for next year’s committee. If you write things down while they’re still fresh in your mind, planning National OT Month next year will be so much easier!
Of course, keep a file of any media coverage: Save clippings from newspapers and ask radio and TV stations for copies of the recordings.
Late in July, look for more information on the CAOT web site (www.caot.ca), along with sample news releases, public service announcements, graphics, ads and consumer tips, for download. The OT Works web site (www.caot.ca) also contains consumer information you may find helpful.
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