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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 130-133

7.1 The organizations of physical and rehabilitation medicine in the world: The international society of physical and rehabilitation medicine

Department of Physical Medicine, Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Date of Web Publication11-Jun-2019

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Walter R Frontera
Department of Physical Medicine, Rehabilitation and Sports Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Puerto Rico, San Juan
Puerto Rico
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jisprm.jisprm_30_19

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How to cite this article:
Frontera WR. 7.1 The organizations of physical and rehabilitation medicine in the world: The international society of physical and rehabilitation medicine. J Int Soc Phys Rehabil Med 2019;2, Suppl S1:130-3

How to cite this URL:
Frontera WR. 7.1 The organizations of physical and rehabilitation medicine in the world: The international society of physical and rehabilitation medicine. J Int Soc Phys Rehabil Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Aug 20];2, Suppl S1:130-3. Available from: http://www.jisprm.org/text.asp?2019/2/2/130/259356

  Introduction Top

The International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (ISPRM) is the global professional society for the medial specialty of physical and rehabilitation medicine (PRM).[1] It is composed of national societies of PRM (68 at the moment of this writing) and individual members (approximately 36,000 at the moment of this writing). The ISPRM was established in 1999 as a result of the merger and integration of the International Federation of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (founded in 1950) and the International Rehabilitation Medicine Association (founded in 1968). The home of the ISPRM is currently in Switzerland, with the offices of the Swiss Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine. The central office is managed by AIM Group International and is located in Milano, Italy.

  Mission and Goals Top

The mission of the ISPRM, as defined in the Statutes of the Society,[1] is to optimize functioning and health-related quality of life and minimize disability in persons with disabilities and medical problems throughout the world. In doing so, the ISPRM supports, practices, and abides by scientific, professional, and humanitarian principles. This mission represents a direct response to the needs of a growing population of persons experiencing disability associated with chronic illnesses, aging, and/or health conditions.[2],[3],[4]

To achieve its mission, the ISPRM enables physicians and researchers active in PRM to develop and apply optimal care; strengthens the development and capacity of national organizations of PRM; partners with other international organizations to develop and implement effective disability and rehabilitation policies; and promotes collaboration among governments, nongovernmental organizations, organizations of persons with disabilities, businesses, and others. More specific goals include to:

  • Influence rehabilitation policies and activities of international organizations interested in the analysis of functional capacity and improvement of the individuals' quality of life
  • Help national professional organizations to influence national and local governments on issues related to the field of medical rehabilitation
  • Encourage and support the development of a comprehensive medical specialist in PRM
  • Develop appropriate models for physician training and therefore, involvement and participation in the medical rehabilitation process ensuring that their level of training is optimal for the required community needs
  • Encourage a wide interest of PRM in all physicians
  • Provide means to facilitate research activities and communication at the international level.

  Organizational Structure Top

The governance and organizational structure of the ISPRM changed significantly in 2012.[5] Some of the history and the various developmental stages over time have been described in three publications.[5],[6],[7] Currently, the governance includes an Assembly of Delegates, Assembly of Individual Members, the Executive Committee, the President's Council, and the Council of Past Presidents. A significant part of the work is done by standing committees, ad hoc committees, and task forces. A list of these groups is presented in [Table 1], and the leadership and membership of these groups can be found in the ISPRM website.[1]
Table 1: List of International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine committees and task forces

Click here to view

For the purpose of organizing activities and electing representatives to the various bodies mentioned above and to make sure that geographic representation is equitable, the ISPRM divides the world into three geographical areas and each area into three subareas as follows:

  • Americas (North America, Central America and the Caribbean, and South America)
  • Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, and Africa (Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, and Africa)
  • Asia and Oceania (Central and East Asia, Oceania, Southern and South East Asia).

This division is very useful, among other things, when considering the scope of our specialty, the various degrees of development of the specialty around the globe, the selection of the host cities for the World Congress alternating among the three areas, and the solicitation of feedback when new projects are proposed.

  International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine Partnerships and Special Relations Top

Of particular importance and interest to the leadership and membership of ISPRM is the establishment of special relations with other international entities. As a nongovernmental organization, the ISPRM established many years ago a special relation with the Blindness and Deafness Prevention, Disability and Rehabilitation of the World Health Organization (WHO). It is to be noted that this special relation is reflected on the governance structure of the ISPRM with the creation of a special WHO Liaison Committee. A special action plan is developed by this committee to collaborate with the WHO by implementing programs and activities in different parts of the world that are compatible with, and support, the WHO agenda. A particular interest for the ISPRM is the promotion of the WHO project known as “Rehabilitation 2030: A call for action”[8] and the development of policies that would increase the integration of rehabilitation at different levels of care in health systems around the world.

Very recently, and also within the family of the United Nations (UN), the ISPRM has established a working relation with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). This new committee promotes the basic principles of the UNCRPD including full and effective participation and inclusion in the society and accessibility for persons with disabilities.[9]

During the last few years, the ISPRM has been partnering with international professional societies and other entities with a common vision and interest in rehabilitation. Included in this group are Cochrane Rehabilitation, the International Spinal Cord Society, the International Society for Prosthetics and Orthotics, the International Industrial Society for Advanced Rehabilitation Technology, and the World Federation of Neurorehabilitation as well as Global Rehabilitation Alliance.

It is important to mention that various regions of the world have regional or multinational regulatory entities and professional societies that contribute significantly to the development of PRM. The ISPRM works together with them, and the following subchapters of this Chapter 7 provide more details of some of these groups and their activities.

International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine activities

A description of the different activities of the ISPRM can be found in the Society's website.[1] In this brief chapter, it is worth mentioning some of them.

The World Congress is a major event that takes place every year (every 2 years at the beginning), alternating among the three geographical areas of ISPRM (see above). Since 2001, the ISPRM has organized 13 World Congresses in different parts of the world [Figure 1]. This event is characterized by a program that includes multiple educational, scientific, organizational, and social activities. It is an incredible opportunity to meet colleagues, share knowledge and experiences, and discuss problems that may be having an impact on our academic and clinical rehabilitation services. In addition, the ISPRM has developed a system to evaluate and endorse educational activities around the world after the content of the program is reviewed by the Education Committee.
Figure 1: World Congresses (previous: 13, future: 3)

Click here to view

Educational guidelines produced by the ISPRM include recommendations for a core PRM curriculum that could be implemented in any country around the world, even with adaptations to local needs. Further, a list of competencies for professionals in the field has been developed. Along these same lines, a special career development program has been implemented to facilitate the exchange of expertise and knowledge by supporting the visit of PRM physicians to established and advanced PRM centers in different parts of the world. Finally, a summit for developing countries has been organized in China for the last 5 years with the support of the ISPRM. Some of these activities have been supported with the financial support of the International Development and Education Fund, a resource that dates back to the two entities that merged to create the ISPRM.

With the purpose of contributing to the dissemination of information and knowledge, the ISPRM has created a network of journals published in different countries around the world. These journals receive the recognition of ISPRM and are available to ISPRM members on the Society's website: Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine (Sweden), European Journal of PRM (Italy), Annals of PRM (France), Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine (South Korea), Acta Fisiátrica (Brazil), Chinese Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine (China), Portuguese Journal of PRM (Portugal), and Rehab in Review (USA).[1] More recently, in 2018, the ISPRM launched its own online and open-access scientific journal with the purpose of advancing the field of PRM; promoting optimal functioning and health-related quality of life; strengthening rehabilitation research; and minimizing disabilities by providing an online colloquium for the communication of discoveries, established evidence, and contemporary practice of PRM across the globe.[10] Submissions are accepted from any rehabilitation professional and/or scientists working in the field independent of their membership status within the ISPRM.

Four special activities related to clinical services and policy issues should be mentioned. First is the ISPRM's participation in disaster relief/rehabilitation efforts around the world. Natural disasters result in many permanently injured individuals that could benefit from rehabilitation services. An ISPRM committee is dedicated to this topic and members of the ISPRM have collaborated with groups that work in different areas of the world after natural disasters. It is also important to highlight the collaboration with the WHO and the World Association for Disaster and Emergency Medicine and the development of standards for rehabilitation services after a natural disaster. A second area of recent activity and clinical relevance is the work that a new task force is doing to develop, test, and implement a universal clinical functioning information tool (ClinFIT). This project is based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health discussed in Chapter 1. The mandate of ISPRM's ClinFIT Task Force is to guide the initial and continuous development and implementation of ClinFIT in clinical practice, clinical quality management, and research. The importance of this development can be understood if we accept the idea that assessing and reporting functioning should be part of clinical work, health systems development, and health policy implementation.

Thirdly, because of the important association (causal in many cases) between levels of physical activity and health indicators, a new ISPRM task force has been created to develop a plan to promote and support the right of persons with disabilities to accessible programs of physical activity and recreation. The lack of physical activity programs thwarts prevention efforts and complicates rehabilitation efforts in the community. This is a challenge everywhere, but particularly in low-income countries. Finally, a task force has been very recently created to help ISPMR increase the level of awareness of PRM (evidence and scope of practice) among readers of other medical journals outside the field. This group surveys leading journals and identifies articles related to rehabilitation that may require a letter to the editor or some other publication in response to its content. This strategy can help us educate colleagues outside of our field who may have little understanding of PRM.

  Conclusion Top

The ISPRM is an international professional organization that represents the medical specialty of PRM. During the last 20 years, it has grown significantly and developed a scientific, professional, and humanitarian agenda. Its governance and organizational structure have evolved over time, and its activities reflect our intent to strengthen the specialty and to make a contribution to the society in general.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

  References Top

Available from: http://www.isprm.org. [Last accessed on 2019 Jan 15].  Back to cited text no. 1
Available from: http://www.who.int/disabilities/world_report/2011/en. [Last accessed on 2019 Jan 15].  Back to cited text no. 2
Frontera WR. The World Report on Disability. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2012;91:549.  Back to cited text no. 3
Bethge M, von Groote P, Giustini A, Gutenbrunner C. The World Report on Disability: A challenge for rehabilitation medicine. Am J Phys Med Rehabil 2014;93:S4-11.  Back to cited text no. 4
Imamura M, Gutenbrunner C, Li J, Lains J, Frontera W, Olver J, et al. 2012 – An ISPRM landmark year. J Rehabil Med 2013;45:417-22.  Back to cited text no. 5
Imamura M, Gutenbrunner C, Stucki G, Li J, Lains J, Frontera W, et al. The International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine: The way forward-II. J Rehabil Med 2014;46:97-107.  Back to cited text no. 6
Lains J, Gimigliano F, Li J, Li L, Wu S, Gorringe L, et al. The International Society of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine (ISPRM): The past, present and way forward-III. J Int Soc Phys Rehabil Med 2019:[In press].  Back to cited text no. 7
Available from: https://www.who.int/disabilities/care/rehab-2030/en/. [Last accessed on 2019 Jan 15].  Back to cited text no. 8
Available from: http://www.jisprm.org. [Last accessed on 2019 Jan 15].  Back to cited text no. 10


  [Figure 1]

  [Table 1]


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