Elizabeth Dean, pictured at the first Global Health Summit in Vancouver in 2007

Global Health Summit will build new tools and strategies on NCDs for physical therapists

A focused symposium at this year’s WCPT Congress will involve physical therapists from around the world in developing tools to help them take a leading role in the global fight against non-communicable diseases. 

The Third Physical Therapy Summit on Global Health follows similar gatherings at the two previous WCPT congresses in Vancouver and Amsterdam, which examined the global explosion in NCDs such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and the physical therapist’s unique role in controlling chronic lifestyle-related conditions.

Now, the third summit will build practical tools, strategies and competencies to help physical therapists worldwide assess lifestyle, behaviour and risk in NCDs and intervene to improve health and bring behaviour change. 

“We know that physical therapists need to take a leadership role in addressing NCDs,” says Elizabeth Dean, Professor of Physical Therapy at the University of British Columbia, Canada, who convened this summit and its two predecessors.

“So we need health assessment tools and evidence-informed strategies which can be readily integrated by any physical therapist into their daily routine, irrespective of their speciality area – you could find these tools useful whether treating back pain or work in an ICU.”

You can view a video podcast of Elizabeth Dean talking about the session over Skype here

The session is aimed at physical therapists across all settings and patient/client groups, embracing educators, researchers, administrators and professional body representatives. Speakers will include representatives from all five of WCPT’s regions. The session will examine diverse practice across the world, gathering information about which practices might be used more widely. 

Among the intended outcomes will be a set of health based competences for physical therapy practice and entry-level curricula, which take into account regional health priorities.      At the end of the summit, says Elizabeth Dean, a dedicated website or blog will be established – enabling the summit dialogue to continue, sharing tools for assessing and intervening on health behaviours, and allowing them to be modified based on feedback from practitioners and educators.

“By doing this, and by positioning physical therapists at the centre of the fight against NCDs, we’re not only just increasing our sense of self-worth,” she says. “For 100 years, physical therapy has been defined by its use of non-pharmacological interventions, and if you look at the literature on the best interventions for preventing and managing chronic lifestyle-related conditions, they are non-pharmacological.”

“Health services can no longer afford the Band Aid approach to dealing with NCDs, with people ending up in emergency rooms and with diabetic comas, strokes and myocardial infarctions. This is no longer acceptable. In civilised societies we have the knowledge to significantly reduce not only the mortality but also morbidity and disability.”

Elizabeth Dean talks about the WCPT Global Health Summit via Skype in a WCPT Congress video podcast:


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