Transforming Society By Optimizing Movement Essay Definition

APTA just released a proposed new vision statement to be considered before the upcoming House of Delegates later this summer. More about the process can be read here, but in short, the proposed vision statement reads:

“The physical therapy profession will transform society by optimizing movement for all people of all ages to improve the human experience.”

I will confess that I’ve spent a total sum of maybe 5 minutes in forming an initial reaction, but initial reactions matter with big picture “who we are” statements to the public about where we see the profession of PT going in the next number of years. Unfortunately, my first glance led me to think that a better interpretation might be “we want to be all things to all people”, almost to the point that I no longer have a clue myself as to where PT fits into the broader health care system, much less other constituents who are far less familiar with who we are. I love the idea of dreaming big, but I guess I am at a loss for why we would define ourselves in such a broad manner that it’s impossible to get your hands around what it actually means. We all recognize health care is changing, but hospitals and clinics aren’t exactly going away anytime soon. Treating patients who are hurting and don’t view their problems in terms of  a “movement-related disorder” (much less physicians who have no idea what we mean when we say this) also isn’t going to change anytime soon. I do understand the rationale that Vision 2020 may have been too internally focused on the evolution of PT and certainly agree with revisiting vision statements from time to time. Nonetheless, I think we really miss the boat if we don’t continue to advocate our vision in more tangible terms using a language that is understood by the broader health care community. The notion of PTs being “practitioners of choice” and more importantly the ability of patients to “directly access” our services without a referral (perhaps one of the most fundamental keys to meaningful health care reform) as espoused in our current Vision 2020 are incredibly articulate, bold, and powerful words. More importantly, these phrases are tangible elements of a vision that lends itself to being evaluated (ie, have we gotten there yet?). “Optimizing movement” is far too nebulous, however idealistic and grand a vision it may be. The proposed statement would really benefit from some good back and forth discussion. What say you?


On June 26th, 2013, history was made in the physical therapy profession as the American Physical Therapy Association declared a New Vision

I’m sure we all remember Vision 2020, and the tenants that we were directed towards achieving in the profession, right? Well, as we have accomplished much of that Vision, the 2012 House of Delegates decided it was time for a new one. A year’s worth of work was put in by the Board of Directors and the Vision Task Force to try and wrap our thoughts around where the profession was headed next. Finally, on June 26th, the new Vision was created. Here is what the House of Delegates adopted:

Vision Statement for the Physical Therapy Profession:

“Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.”

Having been a delegate in 2012 and during this year in the House, I was able to take part in rich debate and discussion on the merits of the chosen words. Now, let me try to explain the use of certain words in this sentence, to give the statement further meaning.

Transforming: There were two debates regarding this word. The first was in regard to the word itself. Transform was a very controversial word to use, as people debated whether or not we actually transform anything. In the end, people liked the intensity of the word, and argued that we in fact do transform the lives of those around us.

The second argument with transform revolved around the tense of the verb. We first began with “to transform”, but ultimately ended up at “transforming”, as the latter was seen to be an ongoing, ever-evolving process. “To transform” gave some the feeling that we had an endpoint, and at some point, our work would be done in how we aim to change society, so ultimately “transforming” was adopted.

Society: The use of society was one of the most instrumental words in the statement, and reflects a complete shift from our previous Vision. Vision 2020 was seen as internal in nature, addressing how we wished to change as a profession. The new Vision was aimed to be external in nature, addressing how we want to affect the world around us with our actions. Thus, society became the focus, and the idea of how we use our talents and wisdom to ultimately change those around us was the focal point.

Optimizing Movement: This statement perhaps caused the most debate, both on the House floor and on social media. Many argued that other words should be used in place here, such as “health” or “function”. The word movement was chosen for certain reasons. From data collected by the APTA Board of Directors, they found that external stakeholders ultimately view us as mobility specialists. We were not viewed as the specialists on health, although we do greatly affect that and are seen as part of that picture. The word “function” was not chosen for two reasons by the House. First, from an external perspective, function was not easily definable by the public eye as to what we wanted to accomplish. Second, the House felt that to achieve function, you had to have movement, and this covered all areas including such areas as wound management which may not have fallen under recovery of “function”. The term “movement” allowed the statement also to remain concise and easy to read.

Improve: The use of the word improve at this juncture is in regards to my previous statement on external stakeholders viewing us as the leaders in movement. The House felt it proper to still stake our claim on the idea of improving health and wellness for the general society, so the word improve was used here.

Human Experience: The term “human experience” ultimately is meant to capture all people across the lifespan. This was to make sure that all aspects of our physical therapy practice were included in their delivery of care. Also, the term human experience was chosen based on the ICF model, in which the highest term used to describe the idea of health of an individual is “human experience”. In order to align with this model, the term was chosen.

Ultimately, the new Vision statement is concise and easy to read. It maintains a FOG index of 20, which means that it has an easy reading ability for those with a 7th or 8th grade reading level. This was the intent of the House.

Furthermore, RC 15-13, the Principles of the Vision Statement for Physical Therapy, contains the information pertaining to how we plan to achieve this Vision. Much like the tenants of Vision 2020, they provide the education and direction for this new Vision. I encourage you to read through RC 15-13 on the APTA website to familiarize yourself, as much of the meat of the Vision is spelled out here.

Should you have any questions regarding the Vision, I encourage you to contact myself, or your Chapter or Section Delegates for further information.

In the meantime, get out there and start TRANSFORMING SOCIETY!

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