Summit is an opportunity for PTs to demonstrate their contribution

World Physical Therapy Day is approaching – and this year it coincides with a world event of vital importance to physical therapists and their efforts to improve the impact of the profession on global health. 

This September, just 11 days after World Physical Therapy Day, the United Nations will hold its first ever summit on non-communicable disease – only the second such meeting to focus on global disease. The summit, involving heads of state, is an official recognition that non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer) are an increasing global health challenge. They already claim 35 million lives a year – around 60 per cent of deaths.

“For physical therapists, the official recognition that a global strategy is required to reduce this burden of disability and deaths is highly significant,” says WCPT President Marilyn Moffat. “The profession helps millions of people every year to prevent these conditions and their risk factors – most importantly obesity. They also manage their effects, along with the effects of aging, illness, accidents, and the stresses and strains of life.”

WCPT believes that the summit provides an opportunity for physical therapists around the world to use World Physical Therapy Day on 8th September to demonstrate the enormous contribution of physical therapy in countering non-communicable disease (NCDs).

The Confederation has a toolkit of materials that will help member organisations and individual physical therapists organise publicity and campaigns around this idea (www.wcpt.org/node/28728). This includes information sheets that point to facts and figures on particular areas of health, and research indicating the significant contribution that physical therapists can make. They cover the NCD areas of: child obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and, added this year, cancer.

The toolkit also includes a new article by WCPT President Marilyn Moffat, which can be freely reproduced in journals, magazines and publicity (www.wcpt.org/sites/wcpt.org/files/files/ads/WPTDay2011-B5-PTArticle.pdf).

Already, many member organisations are gearing up for World Physical Therapy Day. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy in the UK, for example, is building on its “Move for Health” campaigns in previous years, and encouraging members to hold a “Workout at Work Day” on World Physical Therapy Day (http://tinyurl.com/3f4xynn). The aim of the day is to promote exercise and wellbeing in the work environment and help employees to become more active during their working day. The CSP will also use the day to highlight the business benefits of having a fit, healthy and physically active workforce.

Meanwhile, the World Health Professions Alliance (WHPA), of which WCPT is a member, is concerned that the recommendations it submitted to be considered by those attending the UN summit have not been taken account of. 

The WHPA brings together the global organisations representing the world’s dentists, nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists and physicians and speaks for more than 26 million health care professionals in more than 130 countries.  In June it made a number of recommendations to the United Nations, in anticipation of the summit on NCDs, in the expectation that they would be included in a “draft outcomes” document sent to all representatives of nations (missions) attending the summit. 

However, WHPA believes the draft outcomes document that was sent out was “brief, fragmented and, in our view, lacks focus and a clear statement of actions, steps and priorities”.

The WHPA has sent a letter to missions to the United Nations expressing its “deep concern” about this. It asks missions to support its original, and overlooked, recommendations, which were to:

  • adopt a holistic approach based on common NCD risk factors;
  • not restrict the scope of the outcomes document to a limited number of diseases, but to include other areas, notably mental health and oral health;
  • focus on equitable access to health care as a human right and address the dramatic disparities within and between countries;
  • address the link between NCDs and the broader social factors that influence behaviour and associated health risks (including the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age);
  • strengthen health care systems through a comprehensive approach that places emphasis on primary health care and integrates prevention, specialised treatment and rehabilitation.

The WHPA is preparing a toolkit to help professionals educate the public about NCDs, which will be available shortly.