Physios can play a key role in dealing with humanitarian disasters, report says

Physios and other therapists should play a key role in preparing for and responding to major humanitarian disasters, a report has concluded.


Physios responding to humanitarian disasters should register with international medical teams or NGOs

The Role of Physical Therapists in Disaster Management, published by the World Confederation for Physical Therapy, calls for the creation of a global framework that includes agreed standards to prepare physical therapists to deal with such events.

The 82-page report, which can be downloaded free of charge, says that therapists should receive training in how to respond to disasters during entry-level and post-qualifying education programmes, where this is appropriate.

Interested professionals should follow specific courses and register with international medical teams or non-governmental organisations. They should consider establishing national or regional groups as well, the report suggests.

It also says that in the aftermath of a disaster, physical therapists can work in assessment, coordination, psycho-social support and advocacy, as well as providing direct rehabilitation to those affected.

Birgit Mueller Winkler, the CSP’s professional adviser for international development, said the report’s recommendations would apply to many UK physiotherapists working abroad.

‘It’s a comprehensive report with some very useful case studies, and is something that members interested in this area should be aware of,’ she said.

Peter Skelton, a physio with charity Handicap International who co-authored the report, said it provided key international guidance and evidence for anyone interested in disaster response.

‘Critically, it is also designed to help physical therapists plan and prepare for disasters before they occur and to support those who are re-building after a disaster,’ he said.

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