Fourteen days on the road is a long time, even for an experienced traveler. Stops in Sherbrooke, Winnipeg, Vancouver, Toronto and Kingston accounted for half of them, but most of my recent trip was spent in Singapore for the WCPT 2015 World Congress and General Meeting.Singapore is a wondrous place. The multicultural vibe is similar to Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, and the pace even quicker. The architecture is fascinating; prosperity is everywhere. I visited Singapore seven years ago, and in that short time the city has grown seemingly tenfold. Everything is clean, the people are gracious, and the weather is staggeringly hot.
World Congress is a special event, worth the effort if time and resources permit. Many of our members fondly remember 2007 World Congress in Vancouver. Perhaps this was why 85 CPA members made the long trip. A learning event of this size and scope, bringing together over 3,500 global participants with so many perspectives, is something every physiotherapist and PTA should experience at least once in their career. As it turns out, World Congress is moving from quadrennial to biennial. The next Congress is in Cape Town, South Africa in 2017.
The Canadian Presence
Canada and CPA were well represented. Two prominent CPA members, Dr. Dina Brooks and former CPA President Dr. Mike Landry, received WCPT awards for research and humanitarian service respectively. Dr. Books was also named Chair of the 2017 International Scientific Committee.
Canadians presented in 43 clinical and policy sessions on topics ranging from treatment of children with cerebral palsy to the potential of tele-rehabilitation. Highlights included Dr. Dave Walton sharing the stage with Lorimer Moseley to examine ‘Critical Updates in Our Understanding of Chronic Pain’, and Dr. Sandeep Subramanian, presentation ‘Making the Most of New Technologies for Stroke Rehabilitation’.
I presented on two topics. I was a panelist in an examination of the evolving global physiotherapy workforce, and I presented a report on the impact of CPA’s malpractice insurance program on the costs and frequency of claims in Canada. It was very gratifying to see the appreciation for our work shared with this international audience, and to learn about the challenges we face in managing access to physiotherapy in countries such as South Africa and the Philippines.
My favourite Congress activity was attending the new WCPT Future Network. Led by Jessica Lees of Australia, this new WCPT-supported network of students is ambitiously seeking to promote global health equity and shape the future of the profession.
Michael looks on as young leaders write their thoughts about the future of the profession.
The Politics of Physiotherapy
Just prior to Congress, the WCPT held their General Meeting, where the politics of global physiotherapy happens. WCPT has over 100 member organizations (MO); 84 were present at the meeting. If you are at all familiar with the United Nations, you can appreciate that global governance is a bumpy ride.
The political structure of WCPT offers an inherent challenge. Each MO has one vote. WCPT annual fees are based on the number of individual members in each MO. Yet the majority of MO’s have fewer than 500 members. It is up to the largest four MO’s (Germany, Japan, the U.K. and the United States) to fund over 50% of WCPT’s budget. There is nothing wrong with this governance structure, but it does present certain challenges to making policy.
These challenges were present during the General Meeting, but patience and goodwill carried the day. CPA played an important role in brokering agreement and finding a way forward for the important financial decisions necessary to ensure WCPT’s stability. It was CPA’s motion, presented by President-Elect Dr. Linda Woodhouse, which became the consensus path forward. CPA will support the WCPT Executive, led by new President Dr. Emma Stokes of Ireland, in developing a new WCPT business plan for the coming four years.
Bono has a point
Attending the WCPT World Congress in Singapore was an enriching experience personally, and a positive movement for Canada on the global physiotherapy stage. Although I carry a bias, I believe that we continue to make important contributions to our profession globally that CPA members support and expect of their association. This has been the Canadian way for over 100 years. As Bono said a few years ago: “I’m a fan because a certain kind of idealism lives and still seems to be alive in this country. You’re not an insular place. You’ve always looked outside yourself, beyond the line of the horizon… I believe the world needs more Canada.” If Bono is right, then I think we honoured that sentiment at WCPT World Congress 2015.
Photo credit for featured image: Sue Rees