Date of Paper/Work


Type of Paper/Work

Research Project

Degree Name

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)


Physical Therapy

First Advisor

MarySue Ingman



One of the priority goals of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is for physical therapists to be “recognized and promoted as providers of health promotion, wellness, and risk reduction programs to enhance the quality of life for persons across the lifespan.” Limited research has been done on the factors that facilitate or hinder the practice of health promotion in physical therapy. The purpose of this study was to examine the barriers and facilitators that physical therapists face while incorporating health promotion into their clinical practice, specifically focusing on physical activity, healthy weight/BMI, and smoking cessation.


A phenomenologic qualitative approach was chosen for this study. Purposeful sampling was utilized to recruit eight physical therapists working in orthopedic outpatient physical therapy clinics in the metropolitan region of Minneapolis, MN. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with each participant to explore the physical therapists’ perceptions of their role in health promotion, the facilitators and barriers of performing health promotion, and their views on future opportunities for physical therapy in health promotion. Audiotapes were transcribed and data were initially analyzed and coded independently by each investigator. Recurrent codes were identified and categorized into themes and subthemes.

RESULTS: Three themes were identified as either a facilitator or a barrier to health promotion dependent on the context: the relationship between the physical therapist and patient, physical therapist attributes, and patient attributes. In addition, the theme of patient education was identified as a facilitator and the practice environment theme as a barrier. The themes identified as opportunities for health

promotion in physical therapy included: a clinical environment fostering a culture of

health promotion, community health promotion, and continuing education opportunities.


Creating a trusting relationship, therapist self-efficacy and experience in promoting healthy behaviors, and patients’ readiness for change all positively affect therapists’ success when incorporating health promotion into their clinical practice. However, factors such as the need to address the primary diagnosis of the patient and a limited interdisciplinary approach inhibit health promotion in the physical therapy setting. It is the interrelatedness of the facilitators and barriers that determine the success of promoting healthy behaviors with patients.