Around 2,000 physical therapists from more than 100 countries are registered to attend the WCPT Congress. Photo: Stephen C

Welcome to the greatest show on physiotherapy earth

In a blaring burst of drumbeats, mass screaming – and even a quick audience mutual massage session – WCPT’s first ever Congress in Africa got off to an energetic start. The opening ceremony, punctuated by performances by Drum Café and audience participation by more than 1000 physical therapists, set a vibrant tone for a landmark event.

“Today is a wonderful day in the history of physiotherapy in South Africa," said Ina Diener, President of the South African Society of Physiotherapy. “We are so proud. Welcome to this, the greatest show on physiotherapy earth!”

Around 2,000 physical therapists from more than 100 countries are registered to attend the congress – not only the first to be hosted on African soil but also the first to be held two years after its predecessor, rather than the traditional four.

“Today is a great day,” said WCPT Chief Executive Jonathon Kruger pointing out that for 60% of registered delegates this was their first congress. He said that his first congress in  2011 had changed his life. WCPT President Emma Stokes also said that WCPT congresses had been hugely influential on her. 

“It is an event that transformed my life, the lives of many others – and that will continue into this week, into the next places we go on our personal and professional journeys.” She emphasised the importance of congress to those starting out in their career as she welcomed all delegates.

The scientific programme took 22 months to put together – the same time it takes an elephant to have a baby, pointed out Dina Brooks, Chair of the congress International Scientific Programme. There had been huge number of paper submissions, and the programme was hallmarked by quality – but the committee had also ensured that innovative content found its place.

“We hope you find it will open your minds,” she said. “I challenge you to take risks, learn new things, walk through new doors and think differently.”

The congress is also significant because of the legacy it aims to leave on health in South Africa. Ina Diener explained that, through the congress, WCPT and the SASP are partnering with a major project to promote wellness and activity in young people in Western Cape.

WoW! (WesternCape on Wellness) promotes healthy lifestyles to prevent, reduce and manage common chronic diseases – and delegates are being encouraged to donate to this innovative programme. Sports shoes, for example, are desperately needed for those who would like to exercise, but cannot afford them. The new initiative has already had an impact by projects such as introducing movement breaks in schools.

Ina Diener said: “Our hope is that the legacy starting here will be of long-lasting benefit for South Africa and Africa more widely.”

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