Volunteer Physiotherapists Ease the Pain
9 September 2014 at 10:07 am
Allied health professionals such as physiotherapists are moving to close the gap for disadvantaged Australians who live too far from vital services by providing a range of volunteer-run services, writes author and founder of the SOS Health Foundation, Jason T Smith.
Many Australians are forced to live in pain and disability because they cannot afford or live too far from vital physiotherapy services. [i]
Across the country there are more than 30,000 qualified physiotherapists and allied health professionals but access to these services isn’t equally shared.
In rural and remote areas there is a severe shortage of allied health professionals. In some areas, there is as little as 3 physiotherapists for every 10,000 people.
Many people living in these areas have greater health challenges than those living in cities but they simply go without vital services because local services aren’t available.
For Indigenous communities in remote areas there is often very little or no access to allied health professionals, especially in the critical area of early intervention. In physiotherapy, the earlier treatment begins the better the outcome.
The Bwgcolman people on Palm Island in North Queensland, for example, have little or no access to physiotherapy and allied health services. This makes optimal health extremely difficult for anyone requiring post-surgery rehabilitation, for the elderly and disabled, and for those with women’s health issues or sports injuries. Travel to access services on the mainland is inconvenient and very costly.
Even in metropolitan areas, affordability is an issue. One in eight Australians live below the poverty line and many people simply cannot afford physiotherapy. Unfortunately, this means many individuals are forced to live with chronic pain and illness without the health giving benefits of physiotherapy.
Those living in poverty often have serious health issues or disabilities that often go untreated. Many of these people would either regard physiotherapy as a luxury they cannot afford, or are simply unsure of where to access it.
While Government and health departments are working to address these critical issues, health professionals have moved to close the gap by providing a range of volunteer-run services through organisations like the SOS Health Foundation.
These programs are providing medical support, physiotherapy intervention and related health services and education to significantly and sustainably improve the health of those in need in an urban setting and remote indigenous communities.
While volunteer programs play a vital role, many allied health professional simply can’t take ‘time-out’ to volunteer.
Pro-bono programs, like work4signficance Day, allow physiotherapists to play their part. They simply donate their fees to allow other professionals work on the ground where services are needed.
Physiotherapists simply agree to donate a day of their fees to the Foundation which allows them play their part in improving the health of disadvantaged people within Australia.
Back In Motion Health Group physiotherapists have been long-time supporters of the program because they believe the SOS Health Foundation is making a real difference in the lives of disadvantaged Australians in remote communities and in our major cities.
In 2013, Back In Motion raised $70,000 for the Foundation which, with other donations, has been invested into physiotherapy outreach missions on Palm Island and rural areas of Australia such as North East Arnham Land as well as supporting a pro-bono clinic operating in Melbourne.
Funds from this year’s event will support a very recently opened a permanent physiotherapy clinic on Palm Island and a second pro-bono clinic open in Brisbane city.
About the Author: Jason T Smith is the founder of Back In Motion Health Group, a leading provider of physiotherapy and related services and author of Get Yourself Back In Motion. Smith is also the founder of the SOS Health Foundation.