Emory University’s Physical Therapy School has a history of providing educational opportunities that challenge and promote visionary thinking and innovative leadership within the physical therapy profession. This October 12-13, 2013 was no exception, with Emory DPT’s Continuing Education Program organizing and hosting a nationally recognized event: “Exploring the Role of Physical Therapy in the Treatment and Prevention of Childhood Obesity: Clinical Practice, Educational Curriculum and Research Agendas.” The Symposium’s purpose was to discuss the physical therapist’s role as part of a collaborative response to optimize movement and quality of life for children confronted with obesity and to generate recommendations to guide physical therapy curriculum, research agendas, clinical practice and health care policy. To this end, pioneering practitioners within the physical therapy, nutrition and health policy/public health professions were invited to share their passion and practice for how our profession could join and collaborate with others in the fight against this epidemic.
Dr. Paul Rockar, President of the APTA, gave Saturday’s opening remarks and highlighted our profession’s responsibility, as well as our specific expertise in movement science and exercise prescription, in working with patients and families confronted with obesity. The remainder of Saturday was spent absorbing information provided by a panel of dynamic Faculty, inclusive of Dr. Cheryl Resnik, Director of University of Southern California’s School of Physical Therapy and “Fit Families” program, and Dr. Stephanie Walsh, Wellness Director of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s “Strong4Life” program, both of whom shared innovative models of interdisciplinary clinics that utilize community resources and collaboration between healthcare professionals to address community health and nutrition needs. Dr. Katie Brown, Education Director for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, shared the Academy’s vision and resources and was instrumental in identifying areas in which PTs could collaborate with nutritionists in treating and preventing obesity. Additionally, participants heard from several, leading PT researchers, Drs. Brian Wrotniak, Margaret O’Neil, Ira Gorman and Thube Kolobe, each of whom have dedicated their careers to working within this complex issue.
Sunday’s agenda was dedicated to break out sessions and discussion groups, and attendees gathered in groups to address the specific topics of research, clinical practice, educational curriculum and health policy/advocacy. Participants were challenged to share their ideas, current projects and future vision for where our profession may head in combatting both childhood obesity and health/wellness and prevention, and each break out session concluded with the creation of formalized action plans and strategies. These action plans were combined and discussed during Sunday’s concluding session and will serve as recommendations for how our profession should progress in increasing both our awareness and knowledge of this issue and visibility and collaboration within our practice settings. Additionally, attendees were asked to take specific, leadership responsibility, and each created a “commitment contract,” outlining his or her professional goals as they pertain to obesity, health/wellness or prevention.
The energy and communication initialized during this Symposium was groundbreaking, and Faculty and attendees are planning to correspond over the next year, as they keep one another accountable on their individual and collective goals. Currently, a panel of involved Faculty are in the planning stages of writing a journal article that will address the action plans and recommendations generated from the Symposium, and Leaders will convene at CSM in 2014 to discuss further how to maintain the momentum and vision collected during this October weekend. If you would like additional information regarding the Symposium, or would like to join our efforts in promoting the physical therapist’s role in the treatment and prevention of childhood obesity, please contact Dr. Sarah Blanton at firstname.lastname@example.org or Dr. Jenifer Markley at email@example.com