Physical therapy in the 21st century (Part II): evidence-based practice within the context of evidence-informed practice

Physiother Theory Pract. 2009 Jul;25(5-6):354-68. doi: 10.1080/09593980902813416.


Part II of this two-part introduction to this Special Issue on physical therapy practice in the 21st century outlines a health-focused strategy for physical therapists to lead in the assault on lifestyle conditions, global health care priorities, described in Part I. Consistent with contemporary definitions of physical therapy, its practice, professional education, and research, physical therapy needs to reflect 21st-century health priorities and be aligned with global and regional public health strategies. A proposed focus on health emphasizes clinical competencies, including assessments of health, lifestyle health behaviors, and lifestyle risk factors; and the prescription of interventions to promote health and well-being in every client or patient. Such an approach is aimed to increase the threshold for chronic conditions over the life cycle and reduce their rate of progression, thereby preventing, delaying, or minimizing the severity of illness and disability. The 21st-century physical therapist needs to be able to practice such competencies within the context of a culturally diverse society to effect positive health behavior change. The physical therapist is uniquely positioned to lead in health promotion and prevention of the lifestyle conditions, address many of their causes, as well as manage these conditions. Physical therapists need to impact health globally through public and social health policy as well as one-on-one care. This role is consistent with contemporary definitions of physical therapy as the quintessential noninvasive health care practitioner, and the established efficacy and often superiority of lifestyle and lifestyle change on health outcomes compared with invasive interventions, namely, drugs and surgery. A concerted commitment by physical therapists to health and well-being and reduced health risk is consistent with minimizing the substantial social and economic burdens of lifestyle conditions globally.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / psychology
  • Chronic Disease
  • Counseling
  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Exercise
  • Health Behavior
  • Health Promotion
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Mental Health
  • Metabolic Diseases / etiology
  • Metabolic Diseases / physiopathology
  • Metabolic Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Metabolic Diseases / psychology
  • Nutrition Therapy
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / trends*
  • Physical Therapy Specialty / trends*
  • Preventive Health Services
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Risk Reduction Behavior
  • Sleep
  • Smoking Cessation