Case Study: Physical Therapy in Singapore

Singapore has made major strides in the local healthcare scene, including the introduction of a four-year Bachelor of Science with Honours programme in physiotherapy jointly developed and offered by Singapore Institute of Technology and Trinity College Dublin (TCD) in 2016, whose programme aims to groom professional physiotherapists who are theoretically-grounded and clinically-oriented to practise autonomously in different specialities of physiotherapy. With achievements like this, which was announced at the 17th World Confederation for Physical Therapy Congress (WCPT) 2015, it was “significant that Singapore hosted the conference….and a proud moment for us, [as] we are a small and relatively young profession compared to the larger physiotherapy populations in other countries,”explained Singapore Physiotherapy Association (SPA) past president Professor Celia Tan.

International voice

WCPT, a UK charity and non-profit, represents more than 450,000 physical therapists in 109 member organisations around the world. Founded in 1951, WCPT acts as the sole international voice for physical therapy, developing statements, policy documents and educational curricula to help support and mould the profession, in addition to hosting the bi-annual world conference. Holding the congress in Singapore enabled WCPT to raise the profile and role of physiotherapists in Singapore, in addition to raising awareness of WCPT and its leadership in building and developing the profession globally,”says Tracy Bury, Deputy CEO at WCPT.

Over the course of four days in Singapore, more than 4,100 participants came together from 114 countries for the congress, which was held at the Suntec Singapore Convention & Exhibition Centre in partnership with local host SPA, which is part of the Asia Western Pacific region of WCPT.

A registered society with the National Council of Social Services, Singapore, SPA has helped physiotherapy gain more recognition as a profession, and with Singapore having hosted the WCPT Congress, it helped advance the association’s work propelling physiotherapy into the spotlight both in Singapore and abroad. According to current presidentMiss Sin Yi Lee:“WCPT Congress 2015 was key to advocate for the role of physiotherapy not just in the Singaporean context, but also the global context. It was Singapore’s honour to be able to host such an international congress that inspired and connected physiotherapists from around the world. Hosting the congress in this part of the Asian Western-Pacific region also provided an opportunity for neighbouring countries to have access to the sharing of evidence-based practice and networking with international experts and colleagues.”

 Fifty-four percent of attendees came from the Asia Western Pacific region—with 12 percent from Singapore alone—and nearly 30 percent made the trip from Europe. As a way to encourage networking, WCPT offered 172 different sessions, with nearly 2,000 speakers leading dynamic panels and debates on subjects like affordability and collaborative practice. For one quarter of attendees, this was their first WCPT Congress, and networking and making new contacts ranked just as high on the list of reasons for attending as gaining new knowledge. “Being part of ASEAN, we can contribute significantly to the population health within the region by serving as an important meeting point and learning hub where we actively collaborate with other countries’ Physiotherapy Associations. Our local context is unique in that we are able to build relationships with other colleagues and counterparts from other countries with much ease and mutual understanding,” Lee explains.

The full version of this article, written by Boardroom editor Lane Nieset, is available in the September edition of Boardroom here.

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