Designing a healthy future: occupational therapy, sustainability and ergonomics
Dorsey, Julie Alison
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Over recent years, there has been documented growth in sustainability efforts (O*NET, 2011; USDOE, 2011; USGBC, 2011) including sustainable development such as green building practices and jobs in the green industry. The United Nations (n.d.) defines sustainable development as development that meets the environmental, economic, and social needs of the current population while taking into account the needs of future generations. While there are known positive benefits of sustainable development to the environment (USGBC, 2011; USEPA, 2012c) and to the people involved with the practices such as green building occupants (National Academy of Sciences, 2007; Heerwagen & Zagreus, 2005; Singh et al., 2010), concerns have also been raised. Studies suggest that if the specific needs of the people directly involved with sustainable development (i.e. occupants of green buildings and schools and workers in green industry jobs) are overlooked, there can be negative consequences related to health, productivity, and satisfaction (Institute of Medicine, 2011; National Academy of Sciences, 2007; Lee and Guerin, 2009; Gambatese, 2011; Kenrick, 2011; Turner, 2006). These issues have given rise to an emerging practice area for occupational therapists (OTs) called "green ergonomics", defined as integration of ergonomics into sustainable development to enhance human performance, productivity, health and well-being, thereby promoting sustainability at both the individual and systems level (Heerwagen & Zagreus, 2005; Miller, 2010; Smahe1, 2010). The goals of occupational therapy, sustainability, and ergonomics intersect in that they all strive to address the overall well-being of a population. Despite the natural fit between these three practice areas and between OT and green ergonomics, there is a void in the occupational therapy literature regarding this intersection and resultant emerging practice area of green ergonomics. It is suspected that this has led to minimal resources to prepare OTs to enter the field, and limited awareness within and outside the profession of the role of OT in green ergonomics. To address this issue, an online continuing education (CE) course has been designed for practicing OTs with both educational and marketing components. The course was developed using best practices in online education and Social Marketing principles (Andreasen, 1994). Careful integration of the evidence to create an effective online learning environment will contribute to a positive learning experience for the students and facilitate the development of knowledge and skills in green ergonomics.
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