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 Table of Contents  
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 156-158

7.6 The organizations of physical and rehabilitation medicine in the world: Physical and rehabilitation medicine in Africa

Rehabilitation Medicine, Family Medicine Directorate, Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi, Ghana

Date of Web Publication11-Jun-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Abena Tannor
Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital, Kumasi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jisprm.jisprm_35_19

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How to cite this article:
Tannor A. 7.6 The organizations of physical and rehabilitation medicine in the world: Physical and rehabilitation medicine in Africa. J Int Soc Phys Rehabil Med 2019;2, Suppl S1:156-8

How to cite this URL:
Tannor A. 7.6 The organizations of physical and rehabilitation medicine in the world: Physical and rehabilitation medicine in Africa. J Int Soc Phys Rehabil Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Aug 20];2, Suppl S1:156-8. Available from: http://www.jisprm.org/text.asp?2019/2/2/156/259361

  Introduction Top

According to the WHO, 15% of the world's population has a disability, and this includes Africa where the majority of the population are poor and live in rural areas without good roads to access health care in urban centers. The rise in noncommunicable diseases coupled with their disabling consequences partly due to the culture of inadequate health screening; the high rate of road traffic accidents due to badly constructed roads and its complications as a result of poor emergency services all point to the fact that physical and rehabilitation medicine (PRM) is badly needed in Africa.

This unique and important specialty of physical and rehabilitation medicine (PRM) which aims to improve the function, independence, and quality of life of persons with disabilities is, however, poorly developed in Africa. Apart from the Northern African countries of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria which started the practice of rehabilitation in the 20th century, almost all of the very few sub-Sahara African countries with PRM associations were formed in the early 21st century. Over the years, the field of PRM has developed rather slowly on the African continent. This chapter seeks to highlight the scope of practice of PMR in Africa, detailing the different organizations, and training programs with the number of practitioners in Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa. The majority if not all of societies and training programs in these countries were started by PMR physicians who trained in countries with already established PMR societies and had returned home to build the specialty.

  National Societies Top

The National Societies of PRM in Africa play a crucial role in the development of PMR on the African Continent. Majority of the societies were formed after training of physicians in the field started while a few countries formed their societies before training began. Not every country has a National Society with only countries such as Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Congo, Madagascar, and Ivory Coast having National Societies in Africa. Not every PRM physician, however, is also a member of their National Society. The oldest society in Africa is the Algerian Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation which was formed in 1991 with the youngest being formed in Ivory Coast (The Ivorian Society of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation) in 2014.

Each National Society has its own unique name, organizational structure, and history underlying its formation [Table 1]. Majority of these societies have provided avenues for the training of PRM physicians on the continent who have gone ahead to also create National societies in their own countries. Some of the National Societies, for example, Morocco, Madagascar, Tunisia, and Congo are members of the International Society of PRM with Tunisia being affiliated with the European Society of PRM. The National Societies mainly exist to create awareness on the need for PRM, provide continuing education for its members and other allied rehabilitation professionals and to push for its development in their respective countries in accordance with the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Table 1: National societies of physical and rehabilitation medicine

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Other objectives of the National Societies include improving the care of persons with disabilities as well as advocating for improved policies governing their care, supporting the integration of PRM in medical school education, improving PRM practice and developing research in PRM. The National Societies can achieve these aims mainly by organizing annual congresses and continuous development workshops for their members including sharing educational information on social media platforms. Other National Societies in countries such as Morocco and the Democratic Republic of Congo have annual National PRM days during which symposia and advocacy programs are organized to enable them to achieve their goals. Gradual fulfillment of these goals serves to strengthen the National Societies while lack of governmental recognition and support for activities, usually comparing the specialty to physiotherapy weakens these societies.

Countries with National Societies also play a vital role in the training of local and international PRM physicians through their own initiatives or via partnerships with their various governments. The members of these societies who are mainly professors, specialists, residents and sometimes allied rehabilitation professionals play a vital role in the training programs which averagely span 4 years with standardized curricula and different entry requirements. It is, however, important to note that in addition to the countries with National Societies, there are countries such as Benin, Ghana, Mali, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Uganda who do not have National Societies but have PRM practitioners who are providing the much needed PRM service with some committed to the training of PMR Practitioners [Table 2]. Other International Organizations such as the International Rehabilitation Forum and other PRM individuals from Europe are also playing important roles in the development of the field in Africa.
Table 2: Epidemiology of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Specialty in Africa

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  Regional Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine Organizations Top

There is no documented regional PRM organization in Africa. However, the North African PRM National Societies of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia organize the MAGREB days of PMR. This is an educational period which brings together members of the three National Societies located in the MAGREB region to share topics of interest, provide training sessions aimed at improving the quality of care of persons with disabilities and promote awareness of the PRM specialty. The first and second meetings were organized in 2014 and 2016, respectively.

PRM physicians in West Africa also do not have any regional organization but have an informal WhatsApp platform where ideas and educational materials, as well as information surrounding PRM, are shared.


There is no governing body with a database for PMR societies in Africa. As such in developing this chapter, information was mainly obtained electronically with the majority of the information being in the French language and with some websites being outdated. There may, therefore, be more undocumented PMR physicians, societies, and training programs not included in the information above.

  Conclusion Top

Africa has the majority of its countries being in the low-income bracket. A few of these countries are, however, practicing PMR using scarce resources, managing diseases and disabilities unique to the continent and most importantly improvising and using local resources to provide the PMR service. Curricula, training methods, and resources (human and logistics) for the training of PMR physicians may, therefore, not conform to that being practiced in high-income countries. The International Society of PRM which is the international organization governing PMR worldwide, therefore, needs to take a critical look at the practice of PMR in Africa and consider the above factors in the attempt to develop the specialty on the continent.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


  [Table 1], [Table 2]


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