Physiotherapy and Non-Communicable Diseases

Evidence shows that people who stay active are more likely to keep working, engaging in society and enjoying life – and that physiotherapists have a vital role in helping them do so at every stage of life. This is the message that thousands of physiotherapists (known in some countries as physical therapists) are sending out on World Physical Therapy Day on 8th September. Marilyn Moffat, President of the World Confederation for Physical Therapy explains more….

In 2011 a high level meeting of world leaders at the United Nations recognised that non-communicable diseases (cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases, diabetes and cancer) are an increasing global health challenge. They 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 significant. Physical therapists help millions of people every year prevent these conditions and their risk factors – most importantly obesity. They also manage their effects, along with the effects of ageing, illness, accidents, and the stresses and strains of life.
Physical therapists specialise in human movement and physical activity, promoting health, fitness, and wellness. They identify physical impairments, activity limitations, and disabilities that prevent people from being as active and independent as they might be, and then they find ways of overcoming them. They maximise people’s movement potential.

So when the World Health Organisation points out
that physical inactivity is one of the leading risk factors for global mortality, causing 3.2 million deaths annually, and that physical activity can reduce non- communicable diseases, it is clear that the profession has a major part to play.
Many people do not recognise the contribution physical therapists make in keeping people healthy and independent. On World Physical Therapy Day on 8th September, physical therapists have the opportunity to draw attention to their all important roles. I conduct workshops around the world, demonstrating how adults with chronic health problems can improve their health by learning how to exercise safely under the guidance and instruction of physical therapists.

Activity has to be introduced carefully if a person is overweight, unfit, older, or has a chronic disease. Physical therapists do this by examining the person, recommending exercises that are safe and appropriate for them, and educating them about how to look for signs of trouble.
Physical therapy doesn’t just mean more healthy people, but more productive people who can contribute to countries’ economies. Physical therapists’ services are provided in an atmosphere of trust and respect for human dignity and underpinned by sound clinical reasoning and scientific evidence.
These are important messages that physical therapists want to convey to the world every day, but especially on World Physical Therapy Day. The message is clear: physical therapists are movement, physical activity, and exercise experts and a resource in the battle against non-communicable disease that should never be overlooked.

Marilyn Moffat, WCPT President

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