Our mission is to promote sustainable practices within the Division of Physical Therapy at Emory University and the physical therapy profession in order to reduce our environmental footprint. Our goals are to create awareness and provide educational resources for physical therapy programs nationwide, create a rich breeding ground for innovative ideas to implement sustainable strategies in our profession and practice through interdisciplinary collaboration, and showcase ongoing efforts within our program to pave the way for sustainable efforts throughout higher education and healthcare.
Sustainability is generally defined as meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the needs of future generations (1). In particular to healthcare, climate change has been designated as the “biggest global health threat of the 21st century” (2). Recognizing our progressive global health role and commitment to society, the physical therapy profession must learn skills to effectively balance economic, social and environmental priorities to meet the demands of the world’s population. The American Physical Therapy Association Vision Statement (2013) specifically identifies innovation as a guiding principle to foster “creative and proactive solutions to transform heath-services delivery” and forward thinking to cultivate new educational models to anticipate the needs of society. (3)
While traditional physical therapy curricula incorporate health wellness and prevention strategies and emphasize service learning, few institutions actively integrate concepts of sustainability in their educational content. Voted the “Best Higher Education Institution – Green Schools” in 2013 by the National Center for Green Schools, Emory University has identified sustainability as one of its top priorities.(1) Evolving out of this initiative, the Piedmont Project was developed to train faculty in curriculum development and has become a national model in providing a community for intellectual dialogue around sustainability issues in both local and global arenas. The goal of this website is to be a dynamic platform to share ideas and illustrate strategies that emerged out of the Piedmont Project to broaden understanding of the concepts of sustainability in the physical therapy profession.
Purpose of website dedicated to sustainability
Serving as a “digital warehouse”, this website will be a resource center for sustainability and PT information (strategies for greening PT), a forum for sustainable procurement and student exchanges, a venue to share examples of sustainability concepts incorporated into a PT curriculum and means to highlight PT health and wellness focused projects related to sustainability. Viewed as a formal establishment of the DPT program’s commitment to sustainability, we anticipate that this website will become a compelling, effective and powerful mode of content delivery and scholarly exploration to further awareness of sustainability in the physical therapy profession.
Introduction of Sustainability into Curriculum
Using methods of self-study exercises, consultative projects, service learning and structured directed study electives, concepts of sustainability are being integrated into physical therapy curricula in such a manner to build student’s critical thinking skills and foster understanding of the complex interaction of social, economic and environmental impacts on health and wellness in healthcare. Underscoring these efforts is a collaborative approach between student and faculty to foster creative solutions to challenging and complex problems, with the expectation that the majority of innovations are student initiated, student driven and student sustained.
By integrating sustainability educational content with healthcare initiatives, students are becoming drivers of change to transform the traditional role of the physical therapist to facilitate a multidimensional approach to public health and eco-centric models of care.
- “Sustainability”. Emory University http://sustainability.emory.edu/ Accessed September15, 2014.
- “Vision Statement for the Physical Therapy Profession and Guiding Principles to Achieve the Vision. http://www.apta.org/Vision/ American Physical Therapy Association. Accessed September15, 2014.
- Costello A, Abbas M, Allen A, et. al. Managing the health effects of climate change. Lancet 2009;373:1693-733.
- Goodman and Richardson (2010). Climate Change, Sustainability and Health in UK Higher Education: The Challenges for Nursing. In Jones P, Selby D and Sterling S. (Ed.), Sustainability Education: Perspectives and Practice across Higher Education (pp109-131). London Earthscan Ltd