I remember the first time I read the word advocacy (in English). It was a few years ago when I started to feel interested by international organisations related to health. I was doing some research about people who worked into this kind of institutions and advocacy was a very common word into their social media profiles. Strong advocate for, formulating advocacy campaigns, physiotherapy advocacy, women´s health advocacy… It draws my attention as this new word even had a proper translation into my own language, so I started to read a bit more about it.
For those of you who work into clinical practice, I know it can sound something that looks quite far away from you. Your main worries into physiotherapy could be the recovery of your patients, your clinical development, being up to date into what evidence based physiotherapy says, and of course, paying your bills at the end of the month.
Probably you may be thinking something like…. “mmm, advocacy sounds to politicians… so that sucks!” It can sound like some kind of red neck agenda that seems to be so far away from you, and that can be true… or not! Let me explain myself.
Advocacy is a very wide concept that involves so many different strategies. Advocacy can mean local actions or global ones, but always the same aim. But why advocacy is so important for physical therapy? Well, advocacy is one of the best engines for the development of any kind of idea. If we want our profession to be considered, we need all of us to contribute our bit. Everyone of us, physiotherapists around the world, can work into physiotherapy advocacy by adding value to our actions into the community. Advocacy is not only talk with politicians to change laws, but also could be talking to your patients, or in local environments, about what can physical therapy do for them to improve their health.
In the same way as patients can do their own advocacy trying to provide Information about their experience with their illness and pathologies, we can do physiotherapy advocacy in different levels (patients, community, the other members of the health team, politicians… and so on!). All of this are different stakeholders who need to know about physiotherapy if we really want to keep developing our profession.
A few months ago (last May) I had the pleasure to attend a course done by Paul Hodges about motor control in Low Back Pain. At one of the lunch breaks we had a little time to talk about physio situation in Australia in relationship to Spain and I was very surprise to discover how similar this situation was for both countries. His worries about our profession were more or less the same I’ve got here in Spain in the other side of the world. So, don´t you think we can all push in the same direction to get the results we are looking for in order to improve the gaps physiotherapy has around the world? That, dear friends, is also advocacy!
In conclusion: Advocacy is not something reserved to managers, professional advisers, presidents of physiotherapy associations and this kind of positions. Every one of us, as physiotherapists, have the responsibility of working into physiotherapy advocacy in our own way or level, I mean, reaching their specific audience (stakeholders) helping to develop physiotherapy to bring it as high as possible.