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Health Promotion and Wellness: The Missing Link of Clinical Care in Geriatric Rehabilitation

June 13, 2022 • Advocacy • Heidi Moyer

Rehabilitation professionals, while well-equipped to provide health promotion and wellness (HPW) services to our patients and clients, are grossly underutilizing these skills. Insurance restrictions, productivity requirements, and other constraints diminish our ability to provide this vital resource to those we serve. Despite these barriers, physical and occupational therapy providers are uniquely positioned to maximally impact the health and wellness of the older adult population. The American Physical Therapy Association as well as the American Occupational Therapy Association have both supported increased participation in this service for patients of all ages.1

HPW already occurs at multiple levels within the existing healthcare infrastructure. The three main levels of care are primary prevention (education before the existing health condition), secondary prevention (minimizing consequences of the existing health condition), and tertiary prevention (managing active complications of the existing health condition). Physical and occupational therapy professions already operate smoothly within the tertiary level, but additional emphasis needs to be placed on primary and secondary levels to allow us to firmly establish ourselves as responsible and worthy, first line care providers.

Addressing this dearth of service provision will be a multi-step effort and require collaboration from clinicians, policymakers, educators, and public perception. In a survey of 208 Doctor of Physical Therapy programs, nearly all programs who responded (49% response rate) reported that they taught prevention (96.1%), health promotion (95.1%), and wellness content (98.0%).2 However, only 15% of topics were taught in depth, with common barriers related to lack of faculty experience, logistical flexibility, and perceived importance of HPW content.

As rehabilitation specialists, we spend more time with our patients than most other healthcare providers. We can develop a professional relationship with those we serve on a much deeper level, which promotes a degree of transparency and trust within the developing therapeutic alliance. As this connection grows, patients often come to us with health information first, which places us in a position of privilege to have a greater impact on the education we provide with the health and wellness of our patients.

This presentation, followed by interactive discussion, will address the role of the rehabilitation professional in health promotion and wellness provision, provide a framework to integrate this information into an existing clinical workflow, and emphasize the importance of this service in our older adult population. You won’t want to miss this!

  1. Morris DM, Jenkins GR. Preparing Physical and Occupational Therapists to Be Health Promotion Practitioners: A Call for Action. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(2). doi:10.3390/ijerph15020392

Rethorn ZD, Maxwell JL, Bezner JR, et al. What Are DPT Program Practices and Attitudes Related to Population Health, Prevention, Health Promotion, and Wellness? Results of a National Survey. Phys Ther. 2021;101(1). doi:10.1093/ptj/pzaa178

Sign up for the FREE August Webinar Heidi is hosting on this subject to Learn More: “Health Promotion and Wellness: The Mission Link of Clinical Care in Geriatric Rehabilitation” 

August 9, 2022
Time: 7:30 PM CDT


Heidi Moyer

As a Board-Certified Clinical Specialist in Geriatric Physical Therapy (GCS) and a Certified Exercise Expert in Aging Adults (CEEAA), Heidi is the Program Director for the Evidence in Motion Geriatric Certification Program. Dr. Moyer is a current full-time Assistant Clinical Professor in the Angelo State University Doctor of Physical Therapy program and has previous experience...

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