Thanks to an improved awareness on the importance of physical rehabilitation, a recent news report disclosed that physiotherapy may be an emerging career in Malaysia. With the enforcement of the Allied Health Professionals Act 2016 this year, the Malaysian Ministry of Health hopes that physiotherapy will become a career choice among school leavers to increase the ratio of one physiotherapist per 5,000 people (1: 5,000) in the near future, as the current ratio in Malaysia is one physiotherapist per 10,000 people (1: 10,000). This increase is also aimed to meet future demands for physiotherapists, especially with modern sedentary lifestyles.

As we enter the Industrial Revolution 4.0 or IR 4.0, there is also excitement on how physiotherapy is embracing the digital age, with improvements to physical assistive aids and the integration of technology to aid patients.

To keep abreast with the latest updates in the field of physiotherapy, 12 physiotherapy students from INTI International University (INTI) recently made a trip to Taoyuan City, Taiwan, to be part of the 10th Asia Physical Therapy Student Association Congress (APTSA), an annual international congress organised by physiotherapy students in Asia. Themed “The Older, The Younger”, it was held at Chang Gung University to discuss how to best manage the growing geriatric population in Asia and included the attendance of physiotherapy students from other countries that included Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Myanmar and Indonesia.

The delegates attended talks on the current findings and standards of care and treatment for senior citizens, including the usage of hydrotherapy and electronic games in exercises for the elderly (exergaming), new assistive technologies using robotics to improve senior fitness, and even the usage of guasha (a Traditional Chinese Medicine therapy that involves scraping the skin with a massage tool to improve blood circulation) in physiotherapy.

There was also a Cultural Night to showcase each country represented at the congress. The INTI students performed a Chinese Flag dance and the dikir barat, and were later joined by other Malaysian students from other universities to perform a song on national unity.

The APTSA Annual General Meeting was also held to nominate and elect the key congress members for the next term. An INTI student, Jonathan Chew was successfully elected as President for the 2019/ 2020 term and he will work with the other APTSA country representatives to further the vision and mission of APTSA, and to also lead discussions to organise the next APTSA Congress.

Ms Ho Swii Yitt, INTI’s Assistant Clinical Instructor who accompanied the students to Taiwan shared, “This study trip was certainly an eye opener as we got to learn how exergaming and robotics are used in geriatric physiotherapy in Taiwan, and how IR 4.0 can make physiotherapy more engaging for both physiotherapists and patients.”

“However, the main highlight was when Jonathan was elected to be President of APTSA,” she added. “He is determined to make Malaysia proud and I am confident that with his leadership, APTSA will flourish and make an impact in the field of physiotherapy.”

Dr Joseph Lee, Vice Chancellor of INTI International University said, “I am elated to know that APTSA is now presided by a Malaysian and with the skills and qualities he has gained during his time in INTI, I am sure that Jonathan will be an effective leader and ambassador for Malaysia. Jonathan is a prime example of how INTI prepares the future leaders of tomorrow by providing them avenues to shine and become their absolute best. Jonathan has INTI’s full support and commitment to promote the field of physiotherapy among the Asian region and to develop himself as a key spokesperson for physiotherapy students in the region, as the field continues to grow in demand.”