F. Maric1, D. Nicholls2
1Environmental Physiotherapy Association (EPA), Oslo, Norway, 2Auckland University of Technology, School of Clinical Sciences, Auckland, New Zealand

Background: Global environmental change is fundamentally altering the composition and functioning of our planetary ecosystem, and effectively present the largest threat to the health of current and future generations. Large-scale environmental degradation, climate change and biodiversity loss are now driving a dramatic rise in non-communicable diseases, infectious and vector-borne disease, malnutrition, obesity, trauma and injury, climate migration, displacement, conflict, and associated mental health problems. Global environmental changes and their health impacts are thus forcing us to think and practice healthcare in much broader terms than ever before.

Purpose: This presentation will highlight fundamental problems within existing theories of planetary health and outline resolutions to them that can simultaneously inform a robust theoretical foundation for environmentally responsible physiotherapy theory and practice.

Methods: Drawing on ethical theories and posthuman philosophies we argue against human exceptionalism and for a solidarity that includes other-than-humans as the critical foundation for planetary health and environmental physiotherapy.

Results: In this presentation, we will show how an underpinning belief in human exceptionalism has engendered an exploitative relationship with our natural planetary environment that has both led to our current environmental health crisis and shaped Western science, healthcare and physiotherapy. Building on the recognition of the dependence of human health on our planetary ecosystem, approaches like planetary health hold great promise for a corresponding, paradigmatic turn in healthcare. They fall short of this promise however, where they perpetuate the anthropocentric interests and interventionist practices that have underpinned healthcare thus far. By highlighting fundamental problems within existing theories of planetary health and exploring possible resolutions, we are able to provide an early outline for a radically otherwise, yet strangely familiar environmental physiotherapy grounded in ecological awareness, multispecies justice, and indicate a range of concrete environmental physiotherapy practices.

Conclusion(s): Considering the fact that addressing human health without accounting for today's environmental issues is no longer a justifiable option, our work provides critical information for the formation of an environmentally aware and responsible physiotherapy theory and practice. In doing so, it invites the physiotherapy profession to engage in the further theoretical development and practical implementation of this highly urgent field.

Implications: Environmental awareness and responsibility now have to inform all aspects of healthcare, including physiotherapy practice, research, education, management and policy. Our work lays out fundamental issues and makes concrete suggestions how this can be achieved immediately and well into the future.

Funding, acknowledgements: na

Keywords: Planetary Health, Environmental Physiotherapy, Environmental philosophy

Topic: Professional issues

Did this work require ethics approval? No
Institution: na
Committee: na
Reason: This is a theoretical exposition. There are no participants involved.

All authors, affiliations and abstracts have been published as submitted.

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