PHYSIOTHERAPY – ESSENTIAL BUT UNDERVALUED
“Alongside medicine and nursing, physiotherapy has provided one of the principal mechanisms for people to restore movement and function, reduce pain and stiffness, return to fitness and regain health.” – David Nicholls, The End of Physiotherapy.
When talking about Global Health, physiotherapy is probably not one of the first thing that comes to mind. As a qualified practicing physiotherapist, this comes to me a tad bit troubling and disappointing. The practice of physiotherapy is not only confined to care and rehabilitation services within the hospital settings, but it aims to also serve the community, provide back-to-work rehabilitation programs, and improve quality of life for people with permanent disabilities. Unfortunately, the reality of physiotherapy profession is still extremely understaffed and underfunded even in most developing countries. This can be seen as patients are willingly seeking counterfeit treatments due to the lack of knowledge and awareness on how physiotherapy can help; in which most often resulting in causing their conditions to be worse.
Physiotherapy treatments are not restricted to only treating physical injuries and musculoskeletal disorders. Global Physiotherapy Community has addressed numerous concerns with the aim on improving healthcare and quality of life in developing counties. The mission of the community is to help combat HIV, increase mental health awareness, and reduce the rate of non-communicable diseases, at the same time improving quality of life and death. World Health Organization (WHO) has defined physical therapy rehabilitation as “An approach that improves quality of life in patients and their families facing with functional disabilities and chronic illnesses through the prevention framework of early identification, evidence-based clinical assessment and treatment focusing primarily on their physical and psychological aspects.”
Although the term Physiotherapy or Physical Therapy are no stranger to the community, the numbers of qualified physiotherapist are still astonishingly scarce. With less than 80,000 physiotherapist and not having an independent physiotherapy council, physiotherapists such as those in India are voicing their concerns as this situation reflects the undervalued and underrated physiotherapy profession within healthcare. I have also recently found that Africans are in need of physiotherapy treatment especially within the large population of HIV/AIDS patients, as they require their physical functions and mobility addressed.
“Physios should stop being modest about their valuable contribution to healthcare. They are often in service and system leadership roles and involved in education, innovation and health advocacy and yet they are too modest about their contribution in research, skills, knowledge and clinical care within multidisciplinary teams.” – Davis Oliver, Clinical Vice – President of the Royal College of Physicians.
This was one of the key messages that was addressed by Professor Oliver in the 2018 Physiotherapy Conference UK in Birmingham. With his experience working in the National Health Service (NHS) as a consultant, his emphasis brings about the realization that physiotherapists should raise their profile with regards to the health and care services needed in response to a rapidly growing aging population in developing countries. As Malaysia’s economic status is growing rapidly, the numbers of aging population (aged 65 above) has increased tremendously since 1970s, and it is projected to increase by triple from 2 mil to 6 mil in 2040. This shows a positive indication that more qualified physiotherapist are needed in Malaysia to cater for geriatric rehabilitation in years to come.
According to the Economic Research Institute, Inc. (ERI), the average annual salary of a physiotherapist in Malaysia is approximately RM107, 464, or an equivalent rate of RM52 per hour. These rates are data collected based on anonymous employers in Malaysia. News Edge reported the top 6 country who has the highest salary rate for physiotherapy are as follows:
2. United States (US)
6. United Kingdom (UK)
I would like to draw attention to practicing physiotherapist in Malaysia to start advocating for our professional worth, fight for the rights to be paid fairly according to our clinical expertise and experiences, promote your professional skills, raise professional value and draw attention to the widespread mind-set that I have been seeing pervading our profession about the values of what we do. We could not expect the community to appreciate and value what we have contributed within the healthcare industry if we do not hold ourselves in higher value. Do not be discouraged to chime-in and voice your opinion as change will always come when voices are heard, and people are united.