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World Confederation for Physical Therapy (WCPT) 2017

World Confederation for Physical Therapy 2017- Cape Town

WCPT's vision is to move physical therapy forward so the profession is recognised globally for its significant role in improving health and wellbeing

File 211856The History

WCPT officially came into being at its inaugural meeting 8th Sept 1951 in Copenhagen, Denmark. There were 11 founding associations and 120 physical therapists attending as observers. WCPT's founders saw a need for an international organisation to give guidance to the profession, the UN and the international voluntary organisations sponsoring rehabilitation programmes.  With the aim of promoting the international exchange of professional and scientific knowledge. 

The Present

WCPT has 113-member organisations including 2 provisional members. Policy statements and guidelines cover practice and education as well as professional and social issues. The WCPT website is the focal point for communication and information sharing which is further enhanced by WCPT's social media presence. Using web based technologies, it is easier than ever before for international communities to share knowledge, collaborate and work together to advance physical therapy and improve global heath. Today, WCPT is truly a global force for the profession, forging new campaigning alliances with other international health bodies. Addressing global issues such as education, regulation, professional recognition, workforce issues and working conditions, it is helping physiotherapists all over the world to talk to each other, drive up standards and have a voice on the world stage. 

The International Organisation of Physical Therapists (IOPTP) is the dedicated subgroup organisation within WCPT representing paediatrics. IOPTP have a clear congress programme track, including poster walks and abstracts awards. For examples see the website

The Experience

National Committee member Sue Bush attended the paediatric, disability and rehabilitation strands of the programme. While APCP Chair Elizabeth Gray did her best to see the rest of the congress and attended various meetings and discussions to represent the APCP at this amazing international event.  They both wanted to share their experience, congress was so busy, with a packed programme that they barely saw each other, covering as much ground as they could to report back to us the full congress experience! 

Sue shares her thoughts on the paediatric, disability and rehabilitation strands of the conference:

'It is not possible to go into great detail on three full days of presentations but I will attempt to pull out some of the themes that made the biggest impression.

Thi is the first congress in Africa and WCPT raised bursaries to allow attendance by physios from developing countries resulting in interesting practice sharing between therapists from all over the world.

There was an emphasis on participation in both strands and wheeled mobility featured strongly. Elsje Sheffler presented the effects of delivering a structured wheelchair service in Zimbabwe where 47% of the population are children. This introduced me to the WHO guidelines on wheelchair services which are titled ‘Guideline on the Provision of Wheelchairs in Less Resourced Settings’ defining these settings as- A geographical area with limited financial, human and infrastructural resources. A common situation in low and middle income countries, but also in certain areas of high income countries. The guidelines are clear, concise and well worth a read to clarify what is needed for effective wheelchair provision. They are available from the World Health Organisation. The WHO also publishes wheelchair training packages

In a focused symposium on physical activity, presentations highlighted the need for effective wheelchair skills, to improve physical activity and achieve full participation in non-ambulant children and young people. Desiree Maltais from Quebec stressed the need for training to be in real life situations. An inspirational video was shown of children in a local shopping centre riding the escalators in their wheelchairs. Desiree also introduced me to the concept of Solution Focused Coaching - if it works do it (don’t fix it), if it worked once - do more, if it doesn’t work - do something different. To measure outcomes in participation can be difficult, but it was suggested that asking ‘What do you want to be/do’ can help. Using the Canadian Occupational Performance Measure to identify  and measure a  performance issue, can lead to setting an initial goal and a longer term goal, both of which can be assessed using Goal Attainment Scoring.

File 211860Many presentations demonstrated that encouraging parents, children and young people to set their own goals results in better outcomes. There was also a discussion on the need to allow children and young people with disabilities to take risks in the same way as their able-bodied peers.

In a round table discussion on implementing the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) in practice I found that there are core sets of items for various conditions i was not aware of and the core set for CP can be found here. The sections in the core set are grouped under the areas of the ICF –body function, activity and participation, environmental factors, are useful for consideration when designing services but would be equally useful in informing goal setting as an MDT.

A focused symposium on paediatric pelvic health demonstrated another strength of WCPT - the coming together of specialities. Carina Siracusa gave evidence based practical advice on the often-neglected area of continence.  She highlighted the importance of core strength and development of motor control on pelvic floor control. Improving posture with good seating can influence postural control and hence pelvic floor control. The diaphragm plays an important part in pelvic control and will be adversely affected by poor positioning or scoliosis. Static standing helps to develop the pelvic floor muscles and can correct the orientation if the diaphragm thus improving pelvic control. Other speakers presented on bladder and bowel dysfunction and strategies for treatment. One concept that stood out for me as a paediatric physio who previously worked in women’s health was that children need to become aware of their pelvic floor, but usually do not need strengthening exercises in the same way as adults.

This is just a taste of the many presentations I attended over three days. It was a highly stimulating programme and combined evidence and practical advice. It was thought provoking to consider the challenges of delivering paediatric physiotherapy in the developing world where there are few therapists and great need. It is always interesting to hear about other models of service delivery and to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of one’s own practice as a result.

The next WCPT will be in Geneva, Switzerland in 2019. If you get the chance to attend I would urge you to go !'

Elizabeth discusses the path that lead her to WCPT and her experience of it:

'I have been very lucky that my involvement with APCP committee over the past decade has seen me attend many events across the British Isles, but I must admit when the opportunity of a trip to South Africa to attend WCPT 2017 in Cape Town, was suggested I was off the scale with excitement! Africa had never previously hosted WCPT Congress before so this made for an even more memorable time as we were to embrace the wonderful sights, sounds and traditions of this vibrant and beautiful county.

I have never attended WCPT Congress before but with over 3000 delegates, a small army of volunteers and a WCPT organising committee par excellence it was probably the most physiotherapists I have ever seen in one place! The venue at the Capetown Conference Centre near the harbour was ideal for the large number of presentations, seminars and network meetings and I was impressed how seamlessly the delegates were moving between the multiple rooms, lecture theatres and exhibition halls as we navigated between the amazingly diverse programme. I attended a focused seminar on HIV which affects upward of 15% of children in South Africa and heard how rehabilitation programmes are improving the lives of those affected by HIV.

I have so many fantastic memories of my trip especially as I was able to enjoy a few days holiday either side of congress with my long-suffering husband Paul. Together we visited some of the many wonders that SA had to offer. Seeing the big five (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) in Kruger National Park.  We also visited the Apartheid Musuem and then onto Nelson Mandela's humble home in Soweto. This allowed us to understand how the recent history has shaped the country that South Africa is today.

File 211859The Future- I would like to thank APCP for the opportunity to attend WCPT as we as an organisation move toward re-joining IOPTP as full members in 2019. To meet Sheree York, President of IOPTP, in person as well as the other committee members was an amazing opportunity. After 18 months of emails and conference calls, a face to face discussion on the future was a real privilege.'

WCPT Congress sounds like an amazing experience. Both Elizabeth and Sue would encourage you to go if you have the opportunity. Even more exciting are the connections that have been made between IOPTP and APCP. Liz has worked hard to establish these and as they develop further the possibilities are endless. WCPT congress 2019 in Geneva hosted by Physioswiss, the Swiss Physiotherapy Association is sure to be another incredible event as international physios are welcomed to the city that is home of the World Health Organisation, the UN European headquarters and many other international organisations, in amazing surroundings at the foot of the alps, on the edge of Lake Geneva. We look forward to this and the future links the APCP will have with the IOPTP within this.


Elizabeth Gray- Chair of APCP 

Sue Bush- National Committee member 


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