The Environmental Physiotherapy Association was formed only a week ago and we could not have asked for a better start. The quickly growing membership is clearly showing that there is a huge amount of interest and enthusiasm in the field of environmental physiotherapy across the world amongst clinicians, researchers, educators, and students alike. 

One of the key issues is that our professions ideas of what an environmentally aware and responsible physiotherapy might be is really vague at the moment and so it will undoubtedly be exciting to explore and develop this field over the years to come. 

There is, however, also an urgent need for action and so we need to push the development and even implementation of environmental awareness and responsibility in physiotherapy in a variety of ways.

Possibilities within immediate reach are changing the ways we personally live, eat, and get from place to place, as well as looking to improve how we use resources in our research, teaching, clinical and learning. Doing research looking to understand or transform the relationship between physiotherapy and the environment will undoubtedly also be crucial. And though it has started already in small pockets across the world, it can, at times, take a little more time to convert into palpable action. Implementing organisation-wide, nation-wide, or even international changes that reflect greater environmental awareness and responsibility might be even more difficult for individual practitioners, but it is crucial that we group together for such purposes so that we can also be effective on a larger scale.

As it happens, an opportunity to take environmental physiotherapy to a larger scale has just come up over the last few days. The WCPT is currently in the process of organising the WCPT 2021 Congress in Dubai and has just sent out a survey asking people to indicate what they would be interested in hearing, talking, networking, and reading about at the next Congress. 

As a growing organisation concerned with the very urgent environmental crises we are facing today, and a desire to contribute to making a positive difference, we would love to see environmental physiotherapy being featured, talked about, explored, and developed at the next WCPT congress. As other healthcare professions and organisations are already taking clear stances on environmental issues, we believe that early action at the level of our largest international professional body is vital. 

If you think so too, you might consider filling in the WCPT Congress 2021 survey before the 30 September 2019 and indicating your interest in environmental physiotherapy and related fields. The survey is quick to complete and there are a number of questions in it that allow for filling in ‘other’ choices. Terms and phrases you might consider using could be: 

Environmental Physiotherapy
Environmental Sustainability and Physiotherapy
Physiotherapy and the Environment
Physiotherapy and Sustainable Development
Sustainable Development Goals
Environmental ethics and physiotherapy
Sustainable healthcare and sustainable physiotherapy

Interestingly, only one of these terms – Sustainable Development Goals – is an option in the survey, and only once. To us, this reaffirms the need for us to give more prominence to the relationship between physiotherapy, health, and the environment, and for pulling this topic field much more into the front and centre of what we think about and do.

The next WCPT 2021 Congress in Dubai seems like a particular crucial moment for doing so. It could truly shift the future of physiotherapy towards greater environmental awareness and responsibility, but it needs your help to do so.

Filip Maric (PhD)
Filip Maric is a physiotherapist and researcher interested in practical philosophy, ethics, planetary health, #EnvironmentalPhysiotherapy and sea kayaking.