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“Greening Physical Therapy”: Application of a Sustainable Movement Culture Into a DPT Program




Special Interest Report – Poster


E.Holshouser, S. Blanton, Division of Physical Therapy, Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Emory University School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA



To advance a healthy, sustainable future within physical therapy, healthcare and society by building a culture of movement spanning all the interdependent systems that support human well-being.


The development of a sustainable movement culture consists of education on concepts as well as the development of attitudes that will allow for the advancement of a healthy, sustainable future. As physical therapists, we have a unique opportunity to influence people on a personal level that can have lasting positive change for our society. For the profession to achieve its vision of “transforming society by optimizing movement”, educational programs must develop cultures that empower graduates and faculty to engage and be familiar with all of the interdependent systems that support human well-being. While many physical therapy programs are attached to institutions with sustainability initiatives, other programs have not actively fostered a sustainable culture that is directly related to movement. Aligning with the broader University vision, the Emory Doctor of Physical Therapy Programs has developed an initiative to create a sustainable culture directly related to movement. The philosophy of this initiative is to build off the triple bottom line concept (economic, social, environmental), and apply a systems thinking approach to the following four major systems of sustainability. 1) Maximizing Positive Health Outcomes; 2) Promoting Intelligent Business Practices; 3) Fostering Social Equity and Healthy Communities; 4) Cultivating Healthy Environments and Ecosystems. All of these major systems have direct impacts on human well-being and movement, and are essential for the physical therapist to not only be familiar with, but to live as stewards of these systems in order to “transform society”. The Emory DPT Sustainability Initiative 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. Current projects include the Emory DPT Sustainability website, which serves as a forum for electronic publishing student-written articles on sustainability and movement related content. The website also serves as a forum to highlight sustainability projects, educational resources, and to promote upcoming events. Current projects include a Student-Run Wellness Initiative, Community Supported Agriculture, Campus Educational gardens, Sustainability Curriculum Integration, a Fall Semester Evening Sustainability Event and a Classroom Paper-Reduction Program. Future projects include the DPT Sustainability Podcast, Green Offices Project and developing a Sustainability Theoretical Framework for Physical Therapy. 

Summary of Use

By building a sustainable culture directly related to movement, students and faculty are empowered to create lasting change to help the profession achieve its vision of “transforming society by optimizing movement”. This includes understanding the major interdependent systems that support human well-being and movement as well as the ability to live as stewards of these systems. The integration of this initiative will build student critical thinking skills, and facilitate systems thinking related to sustainability while incorporating student-led projects to develop a sustainable movement culture.


Importance to Members

Creating sustainable movement cultures in physical therapy programs provide an avenue to attain the APTA’s Vision that will foster lasting positive change both for human well-being and the success of the profession. By becoming better stewards of the systems that support life and movement, physical therapists will both provide better value to clients/patients and become more marketable as premiere healthcare professionals. This effort will broaden the understanding of the interdependent systems that support the physical therapy profession and create a rich breeding ground for innovative ideas to implement sustainable movement strategies on local and global levels.

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