Benchmarking curriculum content in entry-level health professional education with special reference to health promotion practice in physical therapy: a multi-institutional international study

Adv Health Sci Educ Theory Pract. 2013 Oct;18(4):645-57. doi: 10.1007/s10459-012-9404-x. Epub 2012 Sep 18.


Health promotion (HP) warrants being a clinical competency for health professionals given the global burden of lifestyle-related conditions; these are largely preventable with lifestyle behavior change. Physical therapists have a practice pattern conducive to HP, including lifestyle behavior change. The extent to which HP content is included in entry-level physical therapy (PT) curricula, and how it is taught however, is unknown. The aim of this study was to benchmark lifestyle behavior HP content within entry-level curricula of international PT programs. The sampling frame included 258 accredited PT academic programs spanning six countries. An internet-based survey was used to assess HP curricular content. Descriptive questions for HP topics (smoking cessation, nutrition, weight control, alcohol consumption, exercise, and stress management) included hours allotted and instructional methods used. Chi square tests examined differences between the proportion of programs in the United States (US) and other countries (combined) for HP topics, and among HP topics regarding instructional methods. The response rate was 48 %. Most programs (>80 %) included all HP topics except alcohol consumption (65.5 % of programs). Instructional methods used were primarily theory-based; few programs (range 2.6-24.1 %) combined theory, practical and attainment of clinical competency for all HP topics (exercise prescription notwithstanding). Proportionally, more US programs included alcohol and nutrition than other countries combined. Overall, HP lifestyle behavior topics were included to varying extent; however, instructional methods used and hours allotted per topic varied across PT curricula. Universal standards of HP practice as a clinical competency are warranted within the profession.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Australia
  • Benchmarking*
  • Canada
  • Curriculum / standards*
  • Health Promotion*
  • Humans
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Physical Therapy Specialty / education*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom
  • United States