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Founded in 1951, the World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT) is the sole international voice for physical therapy, representing more than 350,000 physical therapists worldwide through its 112 member organisations. The confederation operates as a non-profit organisation and is registered as a charity in the UK.
WCPT believes that every individual is entitled to the highest possible standard of culturally appropriate healthcare delivered in an atmosphere of trust and respect for human dignity, and underpinned by sound clinical reasoning and scientific evidence. It is committed to furthering the physical therapy profession and improving global health through:
- encouraging high standards of physical therapy research, education and practice
- supporting the exchange of information between WCPT regions and member organisations
- collaborating with national and international organisations
In 1951 the World Confederation for Physical Therapy had 11 founding member organisations from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Great Britain, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa, West Germany, Sweden and the United States of America.
The first international Congress and Second General Meeting were held in London in 1953, where the first executive committee was elected.
Over its first decade, membership increased to 16 organisations, even though WCPT had no regular income and depended on voluntary donations from its member organisations and occasional grants from other international bodies. By 1961, the Confederation had an annual per capita subscription, its own office in London and a Secretary General.
The confederation consolidated its international position by attaining consultative status with the United Nations and official relationship with the World Health Organization. It also forged links with voluntary international bodies like Rehabilitation International, the World Medical Association, and United Nations agencies such as UNICEF.
In 1991, the Confederation established five Regions with autonomous regional committees to encourage frequent contact among members with similar cultural, economic and social outlooks.
Over its history, WCPT has developed statements, including education curricula, to support the development of the profession. At the 1995 general meeting, a range of declarations of principle and position statements were adopted for the first time, providing member organisations with foundation policy guidance about practice, education and research. New policy documents have been adopted at every general meeting since then, including a description of physical therapy, standards of practice and guidelines for entry level professional physical therapy education.
Early in the new millennium WCPT celebrated its 50th anniversary by holding a meeting of member organisations on evidence based practice. The event underlined the coming of age of WCPT and the profession. The internet has become increasingly established as the main means by which WCPT can communicate with members, providing new potential for physical therapists worldwide to exchange information and share expertise. Membership of the confederation has grown enormously, with the total in 2011 coming to 106, and the number of affiliated specialist subgroups now 12.
WCPT has held 15 world congresses since its establishment, held every four years.
World Physical Therapy Day, established by WCPT in 1996, has grown in popularity and influence. Every year physical therapy organisations all around the world organise campaigns and events to celebrate and publicise the role of physical therapists.