WCPT President Marilyn Moffat (left) and KNGF President Bas Eenhoorn (right) talk to Princess Margriet of the Netherlands after the opening ceremony.
WCPT President Marilyn Moffat (left) and KNGF President Bas Eenhoorn (right) talk to Princess Margriet of the Netherlands after the opening ceremony.

From a royal opening ceremony to a new WCPT song...

Here are some of the highlights of World Physical Therapy 2011 in brief. You can read more by looking at issues of WCPT Congress News (www.wcpt.org/congress/news).

The opening moment

Time momentarily stood still on 20th June as Her Royal Highness Princess Margriet of the Netherlands officially opened the 2011 WCPT Congress – 41 years after she opened the last such event to be held in Amsterdam. She inaugurated the congress by symbolically watering a tulip which magically blossomed into a flower of knowledge.

A colourful opening ceremony revolved around the themes of sharing knowledge, inspiring each other and having fun. The acrobatic act La Vizio gave a spectacular demonstration of the beauty and power of human form and movement. The KNGF President Bas Eenhoorn welcomed delegates, and Ann Moore, Chair of the International Scientific Committee, provided an overview of the programme.

Lorimer Moseley on pain

Lorimer Moseley, Professor of Clinical Neurosciences at the University of South Australia, provided a keynote address at the opening ceremony where he encouraged the profession to consider whether it needed to look more at the sensory inputs that could affect patients’ perception of pain and other sensations – and not just physical inputs.

“Everything we do has the capacity to modulate neural representations in the brain,” he said. “We need to engage the sensory system.” He encouraged physical therapists to understand more about the brain, and not to think “that the physical in physical therapy ends at the foramen magnum.”

Later in the congress, he took part in a focused symposium where he suggested that clinical practice had failed to keep up with dramatic changes in the understanding of pain and therapeutic approaches to it.

WCPT President calls for wider recognition of PT

Some physical therapists have to fight to get even the most basic of services to patients/clients, said Marilyn Moffat, WCPT President. “The profession is still struggling for recognition in many parts of the world,” she said. “There is still an immense amount to do.”

She said that the growing human and financial tolls of non-communicable or lifestyle-related diseases and conditions – such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease – are global concerns.

“There needs to be wider acknowledgement of the contribution that physical therapists can make, and are making, to keeping populations healthy and reducing health costs,” she said.

“We all share the same commitment to making the lives of those we serve better.”

World PT Day success

Physical therapists from around the world are using World Physical Therapy Day on 8th September every year as an opportunity to promote the work of the profession and its value to communities and countries.

At a congress discussion session on World PT Day and how it might evolve, delegates heard that at least a third of WCPT’s member organisations had organised activities annually since the Confederation started producing support materials on its website in 2008.

Chris Okafor from the Nigerian Society of Physiotherapy described how activities have been organised every year since 2005 in all 37 state chapters of the society. Physical therapists have organised road walks, meetings and printed t-shirts.

“Knowledge of physiotherapy is so much higher as a result,” he said.

Delegates at the meeting discussed ways in which World PT Day might be developed in the future. It was suggested that WCPT might target its support and resources to countries where the profession was especially struggling for recognition.

Aid must be sustainable

The best way that physical therapists can deal with natural disasters is to look beyond the disaster, according to a Canadian physical therapist who has worked to build health facilities in Haiti before and after the earthquake that struck on 2010.

Shaun Cleaver, who coordinated rehabilitation services development at the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer (HAS) in Haiti, said that though disasters themselves presented development opportunities, they were “not the only or the best time for progress”.

He was speaking at the discussion session on how physical therapy projects can bring long-term sustainable benefits in conflict zones and disaster areas.

“The real challenge is to build strong systems everywhere,” he said. He pointed out that the earthquake left 100-200 people with spinal injuries, which gained global attention and resulted in emergency aid being flown in. Yet before and after the earthquake, 300 people a year had spinal injuries.

David Charles, also on the panel, was the only physical therapist on site at the Hôpital Albert Schweitzer clinic when the earthquake struck.

“We had a long list of challenges,” he said. “One was the lack of resources – professionals, equipment and finances. Then there was the problem of coordinating services. The third area was knowledge – there was little disaster preparedness in the professions, and we were young physical therapists.”

Najmuddin Helal, an Afghan who lost both legs as a result of a landmine blast before becoming a physical therapist, spoke of physical therapy in a war zone.

WCPT has set up a web page to assist member organisations in their efforts to raise funds to support physical therapists affected by recent natural disasters. Details of the appeals of Physiotherapy New Zealand and the Japanese Physical Therapy Association are available at www.wcpt.org/node/40764.  There is also a dedicated area of the website with resources for those interested in disaster management: www.wcpt.org/node/36985

Closing ceremony

Many delegates remained at the congress to the very end, attending a closing ceremony that mixed fun, the announcement of the next venue for the WCPT Congress, abstract award presentations, speeches, and the audience joining in to a song about the WCPT Congress first performed by a professional singer at the opening ceremony.