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Canada calling

It may be a year away, but important deadlines are approaching for the WCPT. Lisa Oxlade finds out more.

Looking for a way to share good practice, move the profession forward or see how things are done in other countries? Look no further than the World Confederation for Physical Therapy to be held in June 2007 in Vancouver, Canada.

Physiotherapists from all walks of professional life - clinicians, managers, educators, researchers and policy-makers - will have their needs catered for in an extensive programme, running over five days, driven by five themes: global health; professional issues; professional practice; education; and research and development.

Physios who have attended previous WCPT conferences and are involved in next year's event believe WCPT 2007 is a 'can't miss' event. Tracy Bury, project manager for WCPT, says 'WCPT congresses have a reputation for being inclusive, embracing the diversity of physiotherapy practice worldwide, for providing an environment where experiences can be shared, lessons learnt, lifelong friendships made and a new outlook on the profession developed.'

Attending WCPT, she says, will give physiotherapists the chance to hear about cutting-edge research, and innovative service delivery, and to take a look at different health systems and cultures. 'The structuring of the programme tracks means there is something for every physiotherapist, no matter what their role or area of interest or expertise.'

One of those involved in planning next year's WCPT is Ann Moore, director of the Clinical Research Centre for Health Professions at the University of Brighton.  Professor Moore is enthusiastic about the benefits of attending the congress. 'This event is one
of the best of its kind. It's an opportunity for individuals to hear what innovations are happening in practice in different parts of the world, and also for researchers to share their knowledge, skills and research findings with a wide audience... There is something to grab everybody's interest, whether it be attendance at research presentations, discussion forums, workshops or poster presentation.

'This will be a chance for individual physiotherapists to interact with physiotherapists from all over the world and share in the electric atmosphere that can only be generated by an international congress of this stature...Of course, one of the most important features about an international conference is the informal networking that goes on at lunch times, tea breaks and after the congress finishes at the end of each day.'

The international scope of the event is a big factor in attracting delegates. Jean Kelly, an independent practitioner and chair of the International Private Practitioners Association, believes members will learn 'a great deal about what is happening around the world within the profession and the political changes that influence the development of healthcare delivery'.

She feels physios will come away from the conference with an appreciation of 'how lucky we are to have one of the most autonomous professions in the world, and what we may have to do to preserve that autonomy in times of economic constraint within healthcare'.

As well as giving clinicians, managers and researchers the chance to make excellent contacts, she says 'it stops us being so narrow-minded about protecting one delivery model: we can learn about successful systems around the world. We are not the best, but we can learn how to become so by keeping a very open mind and learning from the best that others offer - education of physios, promotion and patient education.'

Still wondering whether attending WCPT will be worth it? Olwen Finlay, chair of the International Association for Physiotherapists working with Older People, has attended a number of times. She acknowledges managers at this time of financial constraints could well ask: 'Can I afford to send a representative to Vancouver?'

However, she adds: 'Speaking from experience, the influence WCPT has had on my professional life, I would submit managers cannot afford to ignore this event for professional development... This conference is essential to members of the profession... managers will find it useful for benchmarking their services, researchers will be stimulated by others and clinicians should return revitalised.'

The final word on why CSP members should visit Vancouver in 2007 goes to Mindy Cairns, senior lecturer and research lead at the University of Hertfordshire. Dr Cairns says: 'I think the biggest opportunity is time to meet immensely experienced international researchers who are happy to share their research knowledge, and dedicated, experienced clinicians who are happy
to share their clinical knowledge.

'This is a real showcase for the physiotherapy profession in terms of research. The use of themes means there is something for everyone and frequently too much choice. It allows you to stay bang up-to-date with developments within the profession and
have a really good time while doing so.' With that in mind, isn't it time to start planning your trip to Vancouver?

The showcase for research in physiotherapy

If you have never presented at a congress before help is at hand in the form of a WCPT-run mentorship programme (until the end of July), details of which can be found on the WCPT website. And members of the CSP who present papers at the congress can apply for a Robert Williams award.

One CSP member who took advantage of the Robert Williams award scheme at the last WCPT, held in Barcelona in 2003, was Mindy Cairns, senior lecturer and research lead, department of health professions, University of Hertfordshire. Dr Cairns says applying was easy. 'I had to complete a simple application form (one side of A4) with an extended abstract of up to 1,000 words and include details of the funding I was requesting. This is straightforward as it simply means expanding the abstract you have already submitted.'

Mindy is enthusiastic about the benefits attending WCPT brought: 'The theme that year was "Moving physical therapy forward" and I would certainly say it fulfilled that admirably. You have only got to look at the number of presentations now in peer-reviewed journals.

'I seem to remember the strapline was "WCPT - where the world of physical therapy meets" and, although corny, it was absolutely true. It gave me a chance to meet up with old friends, definitely make new ones and make links that have facilitated my career significantly.'

Olwen Finlay, chair of the International Association for Physiotherapists working with Older People, recommends the experience of presenting at the congress. 'I presented at WCPT in Washington in 1995 after debating long and hard as to whether to submit an abstract. The experience of submitting at world level is challenging, however it is achievable.

'I also discovered administrators and other clinicians were more prepared to listen to your ideas if they had been peer reviewed for presentation at international level. I enjoyed that conference so much, I attended WCPT in Japan in 1999 and presented again at WCPT in Barcelona in 2003.'

Prof Moore, who represents Europe on the WCPT's international scientific committee, says WCPT is 'the showcase for research in physiotherapy'.

Barcelona memories

Therapists lucky enough to attend the last WCPT had the chance to hear psychologist Christine Cedraschi, research and clinical psychologist at Geneva University Hospital, talking about cultural perceptions of pain. Dr Cedraschi took part in a symposium discussing globally the relationship between pain and culture and the many questions this relationship can raise. For example, does culture influence perception of or response to pain, and does culture influence patient expectations?

Christine notes 'there are many studies on culture and chronic pain problems, especially low back pain. Globally it has been shown social and cultural context may clearly influence response to pain... Within groups, differences are the rule not
the exception.' She stresses: 'It is important to avoid stereotypes...

Studies on pain and culture need to take into account not only the patient's cultural background but also the health provider's or researcher's social and cultural context.'

For Christine, attending WCPT was 'a wonderful opportunity to share thoughts with health professionals from another field'. She says: 'It is accepted there are a great number of ways of training physical therapists and differences in the way physical therapists practise between countries... it was an opportunity to work in a multidisciplinary framework.'

Let the CSP help you attend

The Robert Williams international award, funded by the CSP charitable trust, provides financial assistance to CSP members to present papers at the World  Confederation for Physical Therapy, which will take place in Vancouver, Canada, from 2 to 6 June, 2007.

Ten awards of £500 are available towards the costs of the conference registration fee, travel expenses to and from the event, living expenses for the duration of the programme and insurance. The closing date for applications for the Robert Williams award is 9 October, 2006.

Any members wishing to apply must submit an abstract for presentation to WCPT. The closing date for abstract submissions to WCPT is 15 September, 2006.

Details on how to submit an abstract are available from

Details of the application procedure for the Robert Williams award are available from the CSP website or contact Terry Grant, email:


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