WCPT representatives including President Marilyn Moffat (front second left) join physical therapists and rehabilitation doctors at a reception in Beijing

Physical therapy moves forward in China

The physical therapy profession is moving forward in China, where two professional entry level education programmes have now received accreditation from WCPT. In June, while speaking at the congress of the International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (ISPRM) in Beijing, WCPT representatives presented accreditation certificates to the two programmes.

The Chinese health system is evolving to embrace both traditional Chinese and Western medicine. The government granted permission to establish the first physical therapy programmes in the 1990s, when China won the bid for the 2008 Olympic Games.

Physical therapist professional entry level education programmes have developed since then, with support from the Chinese Association of Rehabilitation Medicine, investment in rehabilitation from the Chinese government, and guidance from international physical therapy education experts.  

Nine of the new programmes are modelled on WCPT’s international guidelines on entry level education. WCPT accreditation of the two programmes at Kunming Medical University and Sichuan University demonstrates that they meet the Confederation’s guidelines. They were presented with their certificates by WCPT President Marilyn Moffat.

“I think that now the programmes have accreditation, they are very confident that the physical therapists graduating are of an international standard,” says WCPT Executive Committee member Margot Skinner, who was involved in the accreditation of the two programmes. “The hope is that these graduates will start educating other students, and the profession will quickly build, so that the physical therapists can start working together to set up their own structures and an independent professional organisation.”

Margot Skinner, Marilyn Moffat and Catherine Sykes (WCPT’s Professional Policy Consultant) were all invited speakers at the Beijing congress of the ISPRM, an organisation for physicians specialising in rehabilitation medicine. Marilyn Moffat spoke on physical therapists as integral members of the rehabilitation team and the role of WCPT; Catherine Sykes spoke on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health; and Margot Skinner spoke on physical therapists’ role in managing the global epidemic of non-communicable disease.

They were joined by: Alice Jones, from the University of Sydney and Griffith University, Australia, one of the international physical therapy education experts, who spoke on the evidence for early intervention by physical therapists in influencing recovery for ventilated patients in ICU; and Celestina Tremolada, a physical therapist from Italy who has been involved in establishing a direct access rehabilitation centre in Beijing, who spoke on the experiences and outcomes in the early years of the service.

“WCPT’s participation in the congress was another step towards building the profession in China consistent with WCPT standards,” said Marilyn Moffat. 

Delegates included physical therapists, occupational therapists and physicians. Catherine Sykes said: “It was significant that the ISPRM Congress was held in Beijing. It was an opportunity to engage with the profession in China, support its professional development, and meet with leaders of physical therapy programmes moving towards accreditation.”

The congress coincided with the publication of an article on “The Current Status of Physical Therapy in China” in the Chinese Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine, by Margot Skinner and Alice Jones.

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