Exploring the research priorities for occupational therapy in India: A descriptive review

Sureshkumar Kamalakannan*, Lakshmanan Sethuraman, Manigandan Chockalingam, Selvaraj Samuelkamaleshkumar, Shobana Devi Moorthy, MuraliKrishnan Srinivasan, Jothikumar Ramakrishnan, Thirumugam Muthuvel, Karthik Mani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

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Background: Occupational therapists are considered an important workforce for the rehabilitation of persons with disabilities globally. However, in India, the profession is just beginning to gain recognition within the national and state-level systems for health care. One of the reasons for this could be the paucity of specific research related to the development of occupational therapy (OT) and its benefits to the health systems. Therefore, it is of immense public health importance to explore the priorities and gaps in OT research in India. A vast majority of the OT research in India is promoted and disseminated through the All-India Occupational Therapists Association (AIOTA) and its annual national conference (ANC).
Objectives: The objective of this study is to descriptively review the conference abstracts of the AIOTA ANC published in the Indian Journal of OT (IJOT), an official publication of the AIOTA, from 2017 to 2021. Study Design: The study design was a descriptive, nonsystematic review.
Methods: Review of the abstracts selected for the AIOTA ANC published in the IJOT from 2017 to 2021. A data extraction form was developed and used to synthesize data related to the clinical and demographic characteristics of OT research in India.
Results: The search yielded 218 abstracts. State-level trends indicated that close to 85% of the research submissions were from four states and no submissions from the northeastern states until 2020. Nearly 60% of the abstracts were clinical research with OT interventions. About 40% of these research abstracts were related to pediatrics, followed by neurology (17%), musculoskeletal (15%), mental health (10%), and ergonomics and assistive technology (8%). There were 1%–2% of research abstracts submitted related to coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) and geriatrics. About 85% of the research abstracts were related to impairment (39%), activity limitation (26%), and social participation (22%).
Conclusion: This review highlights the need for diversifying the research in OT in India. This is particularly important in relation to expanding from selected states to pan-India research and development, especially in the northeastern states. Furthermore, the focus of OT research must move beyond impairments and approach disability from the biopsychosocial perspective. It is also very important to diversify the research in OT to areas that are of public health importance such as COVID-19, geriatrics, noncommunicable diseases, and rehabilitation in health systems. Priority setting for research in OT in India is an important implication of this review.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-43
Number of pages5
JournalThe Indian Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number2
Early online date4 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2022


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