In his 1944 play The Glass Menagerie, America’s most famous playwright Tennessee Williams states: ‘People go to the movies instead of moving. Hollywood characters are supposed to have all the adventures for everybody in America, while everybody in America sits in a dark room and watches them have them’. I am pretty sure that things have not improved since that time in regards to movement.
There is little doubt that the burden of disease in modern societies is anchored on two issues; the prevalence (or lack there of) of physical activity, and its close cousin in contributing to high BMI, dietary intake. According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (healthmetricsandevaluation.org), low back pain alone was the second highest cause of disability adjusted life years in Australia in 2010, and this number had increased by 45 per cent over the previous 20 years.
As experts in movement and physical activity, physiotherapists have a unique opportunity to address these issues in every clinical encounter. Our understanding of rehabilitation and enhancing function provides us with unique perspectives which are valuable in individual discussions with our patients and communities. We have an opportunity to not only address the presenting problem, but also to discuss broader health issues.
When patients present in our practices or departments, they are normally there because they are restricted in doing something. While providing valued interventions targeted to their problems at hand, we have the chance to use our expertise to provide broader advice regarding physical activity in their lives. Being seen as the advocates for physical activity in our patient’s lives should be a central part of what we do.
Similarly in the broader health and advocacy space, we have a unique opportunity to add our voice to those of other groups advocating for ways to improve physical activity and health in our communities. Many innovative clinicians are already doing this in various ways.
Our consistent engagement in this type of discussion in the broader community will continue to strengthen our reputation among funders and policymakers, as well as raising the visibility of the profession and the fantastic work done by physiotherapists in the community.
Over the course of this year, I have been surprised by the number of requests from journalists to discuss issues relating to lack of physical activity. These enquiries provide an opportunity to spread the message about encouraging safe participation in an active lifestyle. The enquiries are in part based on an acknowledgement in the broader community of the role of physiotherapists, and in part the great relationships that the APA has been working hard to forge with the media over the last several years.
Let’s get moving.
MARCUS DRIPPS, APAM
APA National President
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