Introducing environmental physiotherapy in teaching about health promotion

Introduction and context in the curriculum

At the University of Iceland, the physiotherapy curriculum is made of 3 years for BSc and 2 years for MSc, which is necessary to be a certified registered physiotherapist. In the 2nd year of the BSc, we have two courses on health promotion (I and II). In the first one, the emphasis is on health promotion and prevention for societies and groups (4 ECTS) while in the latter the focus is more on the individual (5 ECTS). 

The workshop

To familiarize our students to the SDGs, we had a workshop where the students presented each goal. In addition, the aim was to have them make a three-minute presentation in 30 minutes and introduce to their classmates. We had three classroom hours (40 min). In the beginning, we had a short discussion on the SDGs and how familiar they were with the SDGs. This discussion confirmed my experience from last year, where the students expressed not knowing so much about the SDGs. – Each pair of students was then assigned one goal (“drew a number from a hat”). They had 30 minutes to prepare the presentation and questions to be asked were:


  • What is the aim of the goal?
  • How does this goal relate to the 3rd goal on health and wellbeing? (using the picture from WHO)
  • What are the challenges in Iceland? / How challenging is this goal for Iceland?
  • How can you relate this goal to physiotherapy?


Each goal was presented in three minutes, and we gave 1-2 minutes for questions/discussion. This workshop was fun, and the students seemed to enjoy participating in this. Most of them did a PowerPoint presentation but three pairs spoke “from their heart” and one group made a Prezi-presentation. Given the limited timeframe, the presentations were not very deep, but they all touched upon the given instructions. You can view and download two exemplary presentations (in Icelandic) here:

    Steinunn A. Ólafsdóttir (PhD)

    Steinunn A. Ólafsdóttir (PhD)

    Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Therapy, University of Iceland

    Steinunn worked as a clinical physiotherapist for over 20 years when she decided to take a turn and work on a PhD in health sciences which she finished in 2021. Prior to that, she finished a Nordic BA in interdisciplinary gerontology (NordMaG) and in her clinical work, her main experience was working with older people.

    Student presentation on SDG5 (in Icelandic)

    Student presentation on SDG7 (in Icelandic)


      Prior to the workshop, I provided the students with material on the SDGs including:


      Some thoughts on further development 

      When I asked the students if they thought I should keep this assignment in the curriculum, they emphasized how much they liked this different approach to learning. In general, the students did well and it was impressive to see the productivity during these 30 mins they had to prepare the presentation. Next time, I will suggest that the students link each goal to health promotion, in addition to health and physiotherapy, to make the SDGs more relevant to health promotion which is the main focus of this course.

      Komast í samband / Get in touch 

      🇮🇸. Við viljum gjarnan heyra frá þér og halda áfram samtalinu um kennslufrumkvæði okkar. Ef þú hefur einhverjar athugasemdir, spurningar eða hugmyndir sem þú vilt deila með okkur, vinsamlegast hafðu samband við Steinunni A. Ólafsdóttur með tölvupósti eða notaðu athugasemdareyðublaðið hér að neðan.

      🇬🇧  We would love to hear from you and continue the conversation about our Physiopunk teaching initiative. If you have any feedback, questions or ideas that you would like to share with us, please contact Steinunn A. Ólafsdóttir via email or use the comment form below.


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