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Find out what public health and physical activity mean and why physio staff are ideally placed to promote it.

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Watch the King's Fund's animation explaining what public/population health is and why it's important

Public health concerns itself with both illness prevention and the promotion of personal wellbeing. An emphasis on health promotion and physical activity is now central to government policy across the UK and can attract significant service investment. This new focus presents huge opportunities for physiotherapy staff.

Defining public health

The science and art of promoting and protecting health and wellbeing, preventing ill health and prolonging life through the organised efforts of society

Faculty of Public Health

Public health has three aspects:

  • health improvement – enabling people to better their own health and wellbeing
  • health protection – ensuring the integrity of environmental factors and preventing the transmission of communicable diseases
  • improving services – establishing systematic provision to do both of the above effectively

With unique skills, physiotherapy has an invaluable contribution to make in each of these areas, creating huge opportunities for the profession.

Do your bit to improve public health

Remember to incorporate prevention and health promotion advice into your everyday clinical practice – make every contact count. At the same time, you can also use your clinical knowledge of the causes and processes of disease to educate people on how best to avoid them.

More generally, do also use opportunities to market your physio-specific abilities to other clinical professionals and local decision makers.

Physical activity

Physical activity – UK CMO guidelines

Essential knowledge for all physiotherapy staff, this guidance from the Chief Medical Officers in the UK details the amount and type of physical activity people should be doing to improve their health.  Includes recommendations for children and young people, adults and older adults, disabled adults, pregnant women and for women after childbirth: birth to 12 months.  Easy access infographics as well as more detailed guidance is available

Physical activity – Moving Medicine

Moving Medicine is a comprehensive resource to help healthcare professionals integrate physical activity into everyday care.  It provides allied health professionals with accessible, evidence based, condition specific information to help give advice on physical activity at all stages of children, young peoples and adults treatment pathways.

Public Health Scotland

Resources to support clinicians in Scotland to promote the benefits of physical activity

Physical activity – Motivate 2 Move factsheets

The CSP has endorsed these factsheets, which have been created by Dr Brian Johnson, Honorary Medical Adviser to Public Health Wales and peer reviewed by the RCGP Physical Activity and Lifestyle team. They were written specifically for busy health professionals to provide all the information required to understand the health benefits of physical activity in these areas.

Further factsheets are available on the Motivate 2 Move resource, hosted by Health Education and Improvement Wales.  The resource provides tools and information to support healthcare professionals to educate, encourage and motivate people about the benefits of physical activity.

Public health data

Data is the cornerstone of public health approaches. Each nation collates public health data

Further learning

iCSP Public Health network

Sign up to the iCSP Public Health network (CSP member login required), to receive regular policy, events and publications updates.

Physiotherapy Works

The CSP has already produced a number of Physiotherapy Works briefings pertaining to public health, including:

Free BMJ e-learning

The BMJ has produced a number of e-learning modules, some of which are free of charge once you have registered on their website:

All Our Health: personalised care and population health

A framework of evidence to guide healthcare professionals in preventing illness, protecting health and promoting wellbeing.

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