Cultural differences: The experience of establishing an occupational therapy service in a developing community

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Aim: This paper documents the subjective experience of a Western trained occupational therapist as she establishes a service in a community that is developing its health-care services. The community is located in the Dominican Republic. Method and Results: Ethnographic interviewing was used to document the tasks and events that occurred during this 6 month project. Challenges arose related to the region's developing health, education and community services, training the local workers and the reaction of the recipients of occupational therapy service. The contrast in beliefs, values and cultural customs between the therapist and the local people contributed to the challenge. Conclusion: This study indicates that exporting Western occupational therapy services without any changes causes significant conflict for the professional and the clients. Furthermore, this study demonstrates the importance of understanding cultural differences between the therapist and client, as well as the need for occupational therapy services in communities that seek to improve the health and abilities of the local people requiring rehabilitation services.

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Journal Article

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