Implementing a Health Management Program for Unhoused Individuals at Our Daily Bread Shelter




Gass, Astrid

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Occupational therapy (OT) is a healthcare profession that assists individuals of all ages to overcome physical, mental, or emotional challenges that hinder their ability to engage in everyday “occupations” or daily activities. OTs aim to help individuals be independent and live life to the fullest through therapeutic activities no matter their health condition, disability, or risk factors. OT services can occur in a multitude of settings such as outpatient clinics, hospitals, or schools, however, it is important to consider the relevance of OT in the community such as in shelter settings. OTs have an opportunity to promote occupational justice for all individuals so they can have a right to a good standard of living conducive to their overall health and well-being (Nilsson & Townsend, 2010). OT can play a central role in emergency shelters by providing unique skill sets in health promotion, perspectives on function and training in program development, implementation, and the evaluation of occupational needs to enhance individuals' health and quality of life (Gibson et al., 2011). Unhoused individuals experience a higher prevalence of chronic physical and mental health conditions which can be exacerbated by the environment of living in a shelter. Approximately half of unhoused individuals live in shelter settings, therefore making these optimal locations for providing health-promoting services through an occupational therapy lens and as part of a doctoral capstone project (Schultz-Krohn & Tyminski, 2018).

The primary goal of the capstone project was to develop a health management program for unhoused individuals staying in a shelter to empower them to manage their physical and mental health through health education groups and health-promoting activities. Health management is defined as any activities related to developing, managing, and maintaining health and wellness routines, including self-management, and improving or maintaining health to support participation in other meaningful occupations (American Occupational Therapy Association, 2020).



Occupational therapy, Health promotion, Health education, Unhoused individuals, Health management, Health literacy, Occupational justice, Social determinants of health, Trauma-informed care, Case management