Experience of the physical therapy health promotion task force in Iceland: moving the country's health agenda forward

  • Gylfadottir S
  • Bjornsdottir S
  • Gudjonsdottir T
  • et al.
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Background: In 2009, Icelandic physical therapists (PTs) convened the Physical Therapy Health Promotion Task Force to align with recommendations from physical therapy summit on global health in 2007. Globally, Iceland's health outcomes and life expectancy are ranked 15th. By systematically promoting health and targeting unhealthy lifestyles, physical therapists could help improve the country's ranking. The Task Force was established to serve as a unifying voice for the profession in Iceland regarding health promotion practice, provide a platform for developing a strategic action plan to integrate health-based approaches into physical therapy, and support initiatives across sectors, that is, practice, education, research, administration, health policy and government. The economic down-turn in Iceland 2008 was a driver for the Task Force's establishment. Physical therapy as the leading non-pharmacological health profession has a responsibility to promote its cost-effective, evidence-informed approaches and interventions. Therefore, the mission of the Task Force was to enable PTs to make Iceland the healthiest country in the world through a united vision, overarching values and strategic action plan. Purpose: To showcase Iceland's example of how PTs are integrating health-based practice into the roles and responsibilities of PTs across sectors. To serve as a resource to physical therapy communities in other countries, planning to implement a health promotion task force. Methods: The members of the Task Force held meetings to discuss, organize and conduct activities towards health promotion in Iceland. The Task Force priorities and activities since its inception will be described. In addition, challenges that the Task Force encountered will be discussed. At last, the Task Force's future priorities are highlighted. Results: The Task Force first analyzed the needs and interests across sectors in Iceland, to identify health behavior change initiatives and service gaps. Consequently, the Task Force participated in media discussions on health policy and initiated dialogue with health policy makers. The Task Force promoted unification of the profession into one association, thereby giving it one voice and strengthening the profession's image in Iceland. Further, it supported a first-line program of exercise prescription within primary health care. Also, it endorsed changes to the physical therapy curriculum at the University of Iceland, to increase emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention across curricular content. Challenges that the Task Force encountered, were various professional views about the best means of integrating a health focus into physical therapy practice, education and research. In addition the Task Force had to deal with attempts by other professions to take over the newly implemented exercise prescription program in primary care. Future priorities of the Task Force are to support physical therapy practitioners to integrate health-focused practice with every patient/client and researchers to augment the impact of their work. Conclusion(s): The Physical Therapy Health Promotion Task Force in Iceland is an excellent platform to support physical therapists towards health promotion in the community. Implications: The activities of the Physical Therapy Health Promotion Task Force in Iceland could serve as a resource for other physical therapists planning to implement health promoting practice across sectors.




Gylfadottir, S., Bjornsdottir, S. V., Gudjonsdottir, T., Hardardottir, A., Olafsdottir, A., Petursdottir, U., & Dean, E. (2015). Experience of the physical therapy health promotion task force in Iceland: moving the country’s health agenda forward. Physiotherapy, 101, e498–e499. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physio.2015.03.3297

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