It is about time physiotherapists realize our potential as a profession that could make vital contributions to sustainable development, in healthcare and in society as a whole. Global environmental changes, such as climate change and loss of biodiversity, greatly impact human health and wellbeing, hence increasing and altering the demands on the health sector. Furthermore, the health sector contributes to significant negative effects on the environment through large consumption of energy and resources as well as pollution caused by pharmaceuticals, among other things.

At the same time, the health sector has great opportunities to contribute to reduced human impact on the environment. Here, physical therapy plays an important role, through providing treatment options that reduce the need for resources and pharmaceuticals, and by promoting behavioral changes that have positive effects on health – as well as the environment.

It is essential to include a perspective of sustainable development in physical therapy research, in order to better understand and take full advantage of the environmental and societal co-benefits that physical therapy holds. In this article, we propose the use of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare model for evaluation of healthcare, where treatment outcomes are evaluated in relation to a “triple bottom line” of environmental, social, and financial impacts or costs.

We need to identify and evaluate measures of sustainable development to display the true value of our interventions, where societal and environmental co-benefits are waiting to be identified, evaluated and communicated. 

Please find the article in full text here: 

Palstam, A., Andersson, M., Lange, E., Grenholm, A. (2021) A Call to Include a Perspective of Sustainable Development in Physical Therapy Research, Physical Therapy, 101: 3. doi:10.1093/ptj/pzaa228 

On behalf of the authors,

Annie Palstam 
Associate professor, reg. physiotherapist
Researcher at the Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska academy, University of Gothenburg
Unit of Rehabilitation medicine, Sahlgrenska University Hospital
Senior lecturer at the Institute of Health and welfare, Dalarna University

Annie Palstam (PhD)

Annie Palstam (PhD)

PT, Associate Professor

Annie Palstam is a researcher and senior lecturer with strong commitment to issues of sustainable development and special interest in interactions between environmental issues and health. Initiator of #physiotherapistsforfuture in support of #fridaysforfuture with manifestations every friday (Instagram, Facebook and Twitter). She is also a board member of the Swedish Association of Physiotherapists where she is Chair of the council for ethics and sustainable development.

Annie Palstam on ResearchGate