OT Faculty and Grad Students Learn of Colleagues’ Needs, Challenges, in Tanzania

Posted on July 20, 2011

Dr. Anne Marie Witchger Hansen, assistant professor of occupational therapy, recently returned from a three-week trip to Tanzania, where she led graduate students and faculty colleagues in a hands-on orientation about the needs of occupational therapists there, directed workshops and conducted research.

“Two things happened during the first week,” said Hansen, who has been researching occupational therapy in Tanzania for much of her career. “We introduced students to health care service delivery, and we conducted an assessment of medical supply and equipment needs that Brother’s Brother here in Pittsburgh has committed to sending this year.”

Brother’s Brother Foundation works with partners to distribute medicine, supplies and equipment to areas in need around the world.

“Our job that first week was to determine what hospitals and clinics needed,” said Hansen, whose group visited government hospitals, Spiritan hospitals and Lutheran hospitals across the Arusha region in Tanzania.

During their second week, the group traveled to the city of Moshi, home of KCMC Hospital and two community-based rehabilitation centers. There, Hansen and Dr. Jaime Munoz, associate professor and chair of occupational therapy, along with Dr. Ingrid Provident from Chatham University, led professional development seminars for a group of Tumaini University occupational therapy faculty and 25 members of a Tanzania occupational therapy association.

The third leg of Hansen’s trip allowed her to further her own research, which focuses on the development of evidence-based occupational therapy practice in Tanzania and the challenges and barriers that persons with disabilities face there.

“The results of these studies provide therapists with evidence of how persons with disabilities benefit from vocational training years down the road. It’s really about justice,” explained Hansen. “Our goal is to help strengthen occupational therapy practice so they can provide enhanced services.”

Hansen’s research is a partnership with a Spiritan project—the Olkokola Vocational Training Center—which conducts an 18-month program for physically disabled young people. The center, run by The Rev. Pat Patten, C.S.Sp., teaches trades including masonry, carpentry, agro-veterinary care and tailoring. One young man, who was born without hands, now operates his own successful business with the skills and sewing machine provided to him by the center.

Hansen said that nearly 10 percent of Tanzania’s 43 million people have physical disabilities due to disease or birth defects. She plans to continue studying how occupational therapists overcome the challenges of working with people with disabilities in resource scarce contexts in sub-Saharan Africa.

  • Archives

  • Feedback