Travelling with “Physiotherapy Eyes”

Author: pivotalphysio

I consider myself to be very lucky.  A few years ago, we decided to make work-life balance a priority, and part of the life balance was to travel.  Luckily for me, I was able to create a work situation at Pivotal Physiotherapy that allows me to take (more than) a few weeks off each year.

In the past year, my husband and I have been able to travel to a number of countries, including, China, Philippines, Croatia, Nicaragua, Panama, Morocco, and more.  Even though I’m on holidays, whenever I travel, I cannot turn my physiotherapy eyes off.


Outdoor Tai Chi session in China

In China, there are outdoor workout machines for the public to promote physical activity.  These machines are in use all the time by old and young alike.  Outdoor exercise is also a common sight to see.   The population is arguably more active, and I wonder if it’s because it’s more accessible.  I also noticed an interesting difference between Canada’s care of our geriatric population versus the care in China.  In Canada, there are multilevel care facilities for our senior population; from senior living facilities, where the residents live mostly independently, to long-term care, where residents have 24/7 care.  However, in China, taking care of the elderly is not done by the public sector.  A blog on Asian Healthcare discusses a doctor that “pointed out that while the West has what she calls “two legs” for addressing elderly care issues – a medical model and a community model – China really only has a family model…all services related in the long-term care for the elderly have only depended on family.” “. 1


My Husband and I on the outdoor exercise equipment in China

In Europe, I’ve noticed that auxillary crutches and canes are not often used, but the choice for a gait aid is most often a lofstrand aid. These type of aids are more stable than a cane, but less supportive than a crutch.  I’ve also noticed, that in Europe, walking is more ‘the norm’ than driving everywhere; but interestingly enough, in the past 10 years, the obesity figures in Europe has raised significantly.  Obesity rates in Europe have more than doubled in the past 20 years.   More than half of Europeans are now overweight or obese. 2


Picture of a lofstrand aid

In Guatemala, only 11% of the population have access to health services, and the country has the third lowest life expectancy rate (65 years) in all of Latin America. 3   I had a Spanish instructor explain to me that there were approximately 12 public physiotherapy clinics in the country (I have not been able to verify this fact…).  The population of Guatemala is around 12 million, so this means that, in theory, each clinic has to supply 1 million patients.  The countries in central America have some of the lowest gross domestic products per capita in the world (example, Guatemala=$2867.00, Nicaragua=$1127.004), so purchasing a walking aid is not a possibility and, in my experience, more often than not, walking aids are often a branch or stick.


Some pictures of our trip to Guatemala


I enjoy travelling and experiencing new cultures and countries; however, one thing I realized, is how lucky we are here in Canada. Canadians have easy access to public health care, we have one of the highest GDPs in the world and we have the ability to help out our family with their needs.  As much as I love being away, here in Edmonton is home, and I feel privileged to live and work here.

Carolyn Leibel MScPT, Women’s Health Therapist




3)  Health and Poverty in Guatemala.  M. Gragnolati & A. Marini.  The World Bank: Latin America and the Caribbean Region Human Development Sector Unit.  January 2003 p 2, 15

4) List of Latin American and Caribbean countries by GDP (nominal)




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