Policy statement: Primary health care

Policy type
Policy categories

The World Confederation for Physical Therapy advocates for the provision of primary health care that is sensitive to local cultural, socio-economic and political circumstances and provides equitable access to effective services. Individuals, their carers and communities must have access to primary health care services if health services are to be responsive to their needs.

WCPT recognises that principles of best practice exist that should be evident in any model of health services delivery, not just primary care. WCPT supports an approach that:

  • is flexible and innovative, using models of service delivery that have been developed in response to an assessment of local needs, mindful of the ethical use of resources
  • is developed taking account of local cultural and social norms
  • is based on collaboration within and across professions, agencies and sectors (eg health, education, social welfare)
  • involves local communities and individuals as partners in health service delivery, planning, operating and monitoring
  • ensures that health services are equally accessible to all
  • supports communities and individuals to be self-reliant
  • utilises relevant evidence to ensure best practice
  • has mechanisms in place to monitor and evaluate services and procedures for review and modification
  • incorporates health promotion, disease prevention and intervention/treatment/rehabilitation

WCPT encourages its member organisations and individual physical therapists to raise awareness of the important role and contribution of physical therapists in primary health care as:

  • direct and indirect providers of services
  • collaborative members of multi-professional teams
  • consultants to governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and disabled people’s organisations (DPOs)
  • developers, implementers and managers of services
  • educators of other health personnel and support staff

Physical therapist entry level education and continuing professional development opportunities prepare and equip physical therapists to practise in a variety of settings for both urban and rural communities. These educational opportunities ensure that physical therapists’ roles as facilitators and educators of other health personnel are recognised. 1

WCPT encourages its member organisations and physical therapists to work with governments, NGOs and DPOs to facilitate the development of primary health care and promote the contribution of physical therapists. 


Primary health care — is the first level of contact of individuals, the family and community with a nation’s health system bringing health services as close as possible to where people live and work, and constitutes the first element of a continuing health service process. It is an essential health service based on practical, scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and technology made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community. 2


Approval, review and related policy information
Date adopted:

Approved at the 15th General Meeting of WCPT June 2003.

Revised and re-approved at the 16th General Meeting of WCPT June 2007.

Revised and re-approved at the 17th General Meeting of WCPT June 2011.

Revised and re-approved at the 18th General Meeting of WCPT May 2015.

Date for review: 2019
Related WCPT Policies:

WCPT policy statement:

  • Community based rehabilitation
  1. World Confederation for Physical Therapy. WCPT guideline for physical therapist professional entry level education. London, UK: WCPT; 2011. www.wcpt.org/guidelines/entry-level-education (Access date 22nd September 2011)
  2. World Health Organization. Declaration of Alma-Ata. International Conference on Primary Health Care. Alma-Ata, USSR: WHO; 1978 6-12 September. http://www.who.int/publications/almaata_declaration_en.pdf (Access date 22nd March 2010)


© World Confederation for Physical Therapy 2017