Occupational therapy is cost effective, significantly improves quality of life for seniors

LOS ANGELES, August 19, 2002- Preventive occupational therapy is a cost-effective health care intervention for independent-living senior citizens, according to a University of Southern California study published this month in the Journal of American Geriatrics Society.

Conducted by leading health care economists, biostatisticians and occupational therapy scholars, the study is the first to measure the impact of preventive occupational therapy on the "well elderly."

Study participants reported marked improvements in their quality of life, including better physical and emotional well-being. Data collected from the study also identified a trend toward decreased medical costs resulting from the need for fewer physician visits and prescription drugs.

"Occupational therapy is highly cost-effective and a much better use of scarce health care resources than many other interventions routinely prescribed for senior citizens, which may have a marginal benefit to the overall health of the patient," said Joel Hay, Ph.D., lead author of the study and associate professor of pharmaceutical economics and policy of the USC School of Pharmacy. "We held the treatment up against the industry standard for measuring cost-effectiveness, comparing it to therapies such as heart bypass surgery and breast cancer chemotherapy. We demonstrated that occupational therapy is an enormous value for the money."

The 15-month "Well-Elderly Study" involved three groups of culturally diverse, independent adults over the age of 60 who lived in federally subsidized housing in Los Angeles. One group participated in an occupational therapy life-style redesign program; an active control group engaged in organized activities, but did not receive occupational therapy; and the third group received no intervention. "What is particularly important is the significant quality-of-life improvements that the occupational therapy group reported were achieved without increasing health

Contact: Jon Weiner
University of Southern California

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